visual taxonomy of geo-referenced data 0.1

During the first months of my research I’ve been collecting a wide range of case studies that deeply rely on interactive visualizations and visual narratives to extract insights on territories:
In such projects the use of information visualization is aimed at user-enablement concerning insight, analysis and decision-making about different issue at the territorial and urban scale.
I selected web-based visualized case studies I found have been communicated (posted, linked, shared, reviewed) the most during the past year.

I’m currently working on a visual taxonomy in order to produce a framework able to suggest design strategies for spatial visualization at the urban and territorial scale:
- finding prominent categories to interprete (e.g. topics (contents), visual elements used, interactivity degree, data sources, possibility to compare different kind of data, spatial representation constraint; possibility of customizing view parameters, scale of the representation, interpretation of data within the visualization itself…);
- including promising under-explored approaches (like giving users the possibility to visually interact and sketch with data and adding own data as well);
- interpreting results and finding clusters.

Is it possible to deconstruct the whole set of spatial visualization into major categories?
I’m first working on a classification of such case studies which is initially divided into 3 main categories that deeply rely on the opportunity users have to play (explore, compare, act) with data.
(1) interactive interfaces / interfaces that allow users to actively explore datasets
(2) motion visualization / interfaces that just allow users to follow a visual narrative through time
(3) images visualization / interfaces that just show images.

Images visualization category is included on the analysis because often some interesting visual languages are used; we could explore the use of such languages for interactive visualization as well.
The primary uses of this taxonomy includes classifying, analyzing, finding similarities and differences between the spatial visualizations.

(1) a preview of the working matrix, the selection of the case studies represent a kind of gold standard of examples.

A more in-depth ongoing analysis is provided on the first category: interactive interfaces, which seems the most promising method to make content matters out of datasets and visualization.
The analysis enlightens the different possibilities of interaction for each case study; focusing on the whole composition of the interface and on how buttons, menus, slide-bars and other interactive elements are designed and located.

(2) a preview of the working sheet.

By the end of June I’m planning to produce a document to report the whole analysis I’m making constituting of:
- the general framework;
- the possibility to self-explore the analysis through an interactive version of the matrix;
- an in depth analysis of each case study with a set of graphical dedicated charts able to compare the one at hand with the average;
- a personal interpretation of the main categories and a proposal for a new series of indicators for the interpretation of spatial visualizations.

The final goal is to see if an exploitable language could be derived from such analysis, and to explore potential underused languages for designing better interactive tools.

(more will follow)

About giorgia lupi

1981 I am an architect that never built any house (luckily). I work with information, designing, researching and drawing a lot. I am co-founder ad design director at Accurat ( I am a PhD student at Milan Politecnico (

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