Here’s my table of properties and best uses of visual encodings.
Feel free to download the PDF.
Angle is tricky because past a certain angular resolution, it is less immediately (or accurately) grasped by the subconscious, so while they can technically be used for interval and ratio values, they are most useful for small ordinal (i.e. almost categorical) datasets. Coupled with the innate human inability to accurately perceive relative angles, they are not that great even if the viewer does commit to serious conscious processing of the graphic.
So, while I think “medium” is probably an accurate rating for it, it might warrant an asterisk or a footnote…
Peter, yes agreed. We can get at least 12 different quantitative values quite easily (such as on the face of a clock). Beyond that, increments are likely more ordinal than accurate. I’ll update the next version.
… and the new version is posted, both the gif and pdf.
I’m very late to this thread, but I wonder why you gave color a vote of “no” in the Ordered category? Would you not consider the the red-oranage-yellow (etc) spectrum to be “ordered”?
That’s an excellent question, I’m glad you asked. As you point out, color is absolutely ordered in the physical world, as well as by social convention. However, it’s not perceived as ordered by the brain, in the way that properties like size and position are perceived as ordered. People will not consistently say blue is bigger than yellow, or green comes before orange. Because of that, for best results, color should be used for categorical labeling but not for ordered labeling.
I’m wondering why you think line weight has very few uses? I’m thinking of showing the degree of frequency or strength in connection in networks. what are your thoughts?
Great question. While there are a huge number of line weights possible to print or display, our ability to clearly discern small differences between them isn’t great (hence “useful”). You might be able to see the difference between 2 and 4 pixels wide, but you’ll have a hard time seeing the difference between 37 and 41 pixels wide, especially for lines that aren’t close to each other. That said, if you don’t need that degree of precision, line weight is an excellent choice for use as you’re describing it.
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