An Autobiographical Reflection on Designing Visualizations for Personal Contexts

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Understanding personally relevant data can help us reflect upon ourselves or learn something new. Research in information visualization has shown that the use of interactive, graphical representations of data (data visualizations) enhance our ability to process information and learn. However, most of our current understanding of designing these representations stem from task-oriented professional/work contexts. In contrast, recently, the Infovis community has been interested in designing visualizations for more personal contexts. This knowledge can be applied to emergent research on data visualization usage in broader perspectives such as casual and personal visualizations, and visualizations for public engagement, where end-users tend to be non-experts, and where aesthetics and engagement may take precedence over task efficiency. In this thesis, I take an autobiographical approach in which I analyzed eight years’ worth of archived data (through design journals) on my work in designing and implementing data visualizations. These visualizations’ use cases range from individuals logging their activities, to several people (both novices and experts) convening in public engagement settings. Central to my body of work is an emphasis on the intentional use of visual aesthetics in designing data representations. Reflecting upon this body of work and experiences, I give a case-by-case, narrative reconstruction of my design process. In these narratives, I explore the prioritization of the aesthetic look-and-feel of visual encodings on the same level as people’s data exploration tasks. With this longitudinal insight, my thesis outlines a process of how a data visualization designer can design nonconventional data representations for personal contexts from sketches to working prototypes.
Information Visualization, Human-Computer Interaction, Design of Nonconventional Data Representations, Personal Visualizations, Data Visualization, Information Design, Design Journals, Sketching, Ideation, Public Engagement
Aseniero, B. (2020). An Autobiographical Reflection on Designing Visualizations for Personal Contexts (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from