The Power of Shape : How Shape of Node-Link Diagrams Impacts Aesthetic Appreciation and Triggers Interest

Faculty/Professorship: General Psychology and Methodology  
Author(s): Carbon, Claus-Christian  ; Raab, Marius  ; Mchedlidze, Tamara; Waechter, Hannes
Publisher Information: Bamberg : Otto-Friedrich-Universität
Year of publication: 2018
Pages: 1-18
Source/Other editions: i-Perception, 9 (2018), 5, S. 1-18 - ISSN: 2041-6695
is version of: 10.1177/2041669518796851
Year of first publication: 2018
Language(s): English
Licence: Creative Commons - CC BY - Attribution 4.0 International 
Positive effects of aesthetically appreciated designs have long been studied and confirmed since the 19th century: such designs are more enjoyable, they are more forgivable for glitches and can increase users’ performance. In the field of information visualization, studies of aesthetics are still a niche approach. In the current study, we aim to specifically understand which parameters in a visualization of node-link diagrams make them aesthetically pleasing-an important extension to already existing research on usability and readability aspects. We investigated how the shape of the outline of such diagrams influences the aesthetic judgments on two of the most important dimensions of aesthetic appeal: beauty and interest. We employed different outlines to node-link diagrams and compared them with uniformly filled shapes, varying two important variables typically impacting aesthetics: complexity and curvature. This was done for a short (100 ms) and ad libitum presentation time. Diagrams with curvier outlines were perceived as more beautiful, while diagrams with more complex outlines were considered to be more interesting. These dependencies already exist for presaccadic perception (100 ms) and are slightly stronger for unlimited presentation time. We also found that curvature is a predictor for beauty only for unlimited presentation time. Aesthetic appeal was very similar for diagrams and pure shapes, so many results from fundamental research on aesthetics can potentially be transferred to the community of network visualization, assisting to improve visualizations also in aesthetic regards.
Keywords: empirical aesthetics, node-link diagrams, application, information visualization, curvature, form, shape, interest, preference, beauty
Type: Article
Release Date: 22. June 2020
Project: Open-Access-Publikationsfonds 2012-2020

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