A New Visual Language

Visualizations sit at the nexus of several independently fascinating fields—psychology, programming, science, and information design.

Our job as makers of software of any kind is to create ways of communicating information to users and eliciting responses. Like a conversation. The visual languages we choose for this exchange impact the usefulness and usability of our software. But the conversations are changing. Users have more data, and more interaction with software. Real change in how we communicate data in software will come with Big Data, and push our familiar visual languages to their limits. We might even need a new one.

Carla Casilli suggests that information visualization is a new visual language, giving me hope that data display in software doesn’t have to rely on the old language of grids or simple charts. She supports the idea in 8 excerpts from her Media Psychology and Social Change Master’s capstone project. Framed in grand contexts like “social and cultural construction,” Carla leads a concise tour of why we should be urgently studying the psychology of information visualization, including its power and its pitfalls. Here are links to each of the eight parts:

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7, Part 8

(New to this field? Here are some starting points to get you excited: Information Is Beautiful, eagereyes, FlowingData, Information Aesthetics, The Why Axis.)