Innovations in Visualization

Constructing Visual Representations: Investigating the Use of Tangible Tokens

Samuel Huron
Yvonne Jansen
Sheelagh Carpendale


The accessibility of infovis authoring tools to a wide audience has been identified as a major research challenge. A key task in the authoring process is the development of visual mappings. While the infovis community has long been deeply interested in finding effective visual mappings, comparatively little attention has been placed on how people construct visual mappings. In this paper, we present the results of a study designed to shed light on how people transform data into visual representations. We asked people to create, update and explain their own information visualizations using only tangible building blocks. We learned that all participants, most of whom had little experience in visualization authoring, were readily able to create and talk about their own visualizations. Based on our observations, we discuss participants’ actions during the development of their visual representations and during their analytic activities. We conclude by suggesting implications for tool design to enable broader support for infovis authoring.

Project Pages

Lead student Samuel Huron is now an Associate Professor at Co Design Lab, Mines Telecom Paris Tech.
This is his project page: Constructing Visual Representations.



Tiffany Wun, Jennifer Payne, Samuel Huron, Sheelagh Carpendale. Comparing Bar Chart Authoring with Microsoft Excel and TangibleTiles. In the 18th Proceedings of the Eurographics Conference on Visualization (EuroVis). (Groningen, the Netherlands), The Eurographics Association and John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 2016. PDF Paper
Huron, S., Jansen, Y. and Carpendale, S, Constructing Visual Representations: Investigating the Use of Tangible Tokens. Visualization and Computer Graphics, IEEE Transactions on, 20(12):2102-2111, Dec, 2014. PDF Paper
Huron, Samuel, Carpendale, Sheelagh, Thudt, Alice, Tang, Anthony and Mauerer, Michael. Constructive Visualization. In In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems. (honorable mention award). (New York, NY, USA), ACM, pages 433-442, 2014. PDF Paper