Elicitation Interview Technique in InfoVis

Uta Hinrichs, Tevor Hogan, Eva Horneker


Information visualization has become a popular tool to facilitate sense-making, discovery and communication in a large range of professional and casual contexts. However, evaluating visualizations is still a challenge. In particular, we lack techniques to help understand how visualizations are experienced by people. In this paper we discuss the potential of the Elicitation Interview technique to be applied in the context of visualization. The Elicitation Interview is a method for gathering detailed and precise accounts of human experience. We argue that it can be applied to help understand how people experience and interpret visualizations as part of exploration and data analysis processes. We describe the key characteristics of this interview technique and present a study we conducted to exemplify how it can be applied to evaluate data representations. Our study illustrates the types of insights this technique can bring to the fore, for example, evidence for deep interpretation of visual representations and the formation of interpretations and stories beyond the represented data. We discuss general visualization evaluation scenarios where the Elicitation Interview technique may be beneficial and specify what needs to be considered when applying this technique in a visualization context specifically.


Trevor Hogan, Uta Hinrichs, Eva Hornecker. The Elicitation Interview Technique: CapturingPeople’s Experiences of Data Representations. IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, 2016.

SACHI @ CHI 2016

CHI4GoodSACHI will have a great presence at the upcoming CHI’16 conference .

We welcome the opportunity to meet students interested in studying with us, colleagues interested in visiting or collaborating, or companies interested in our work. You can find us helping and involved throughout CHI 2016 with the presentation of 5 full papers, 1 note, 1 workshop, 1 workshop paper and other activities.

Now on Sale: FatFonts World Population Maps


Looking for a gift for a visualization aficionado? We are happy to announce that the first ever FatFonts World Population Map is now available in the Axis Maps store. All proceeds from the maps will be used to fund more FatFont-related research.

The map shows how the population of the world is distributed. It uses a typographic visualization technique–FatFonts–which allows you to read the exact number of people living in a particular area with a precision within 100,000 people. Each number in the world map corresponds to the population in an area of approx. 40,000 km².


FatFonts – first conceived and designed by Miguel Nacenta and Uta Hinrichs – are digits that can be read as numbers, but also encode the information visually in the amount of ink that each digit uses. For example, digit eight 8 has eight times the amount of ink of digit one 1, digit seven 7 seven times and so on and so forth. This technique turns a table of numbers into a graphical representation where darker areas (with thicker numbers) represent higher population density. Stepping away from the map gives you an overview of which areas are heavily populated, coming closer lets you read the exact values.

To represent population densities from the tens of millions in a square (e.g., in New York City or Istanbul) to the hundreds of thousands, we use two layers: the FatFont numbers with orange backgrounds represent tens of millions of people. For example, the square that contains Buenos Aires shows you that fourteen million people live in that square of the world (the smaller 4 within the larger 1 represents the smaller order of magnitude). Tiles without an orange background represent populations between 9.9 million people to 100,000 (one order of magnitude lower).

This is an effective way to represent several orders of magnitude. The effect is quite mesmerising, and it gives you a good idea of where people actually live. Although it is possible to represent the same data with colours (i.e., colour scales), it is something different to see also the number itself. With the number you can easily make comparisons, calculate proportions, and relate what you see with the knowledge that you have already.

After a few minutes of looking at the map it starts to really sink in how empty some areas of the planet really are (Australia!), and how the real population centroid of the world is clearly in South East Asia. The map uses an equal-area projection; the numbers that you read are, therefore, also population densities. The representation is derived from the 2005 estimations for 2015 of the GPWFE dataset made available by SEDAC, Columbia University. 15 insets highlight interesting areas of high and low population in more detail, such as Northern China, Mexico City, Egypt, Western Japan, Bangladesh and Africa’s Great Lakes region.

Angle Australia_600

David Heyman, Purposeful Map-Design

Purposeful Map-Design: What it Means to Be a Cartographer when Everyone is Making Maps

The democratizing technologies of the web have brought the tools and raw-materials required to make a map to a wider audience than ever before. This proliferation of mapping has redefined modern Cartography beyond the general practice of “making maps” to the purposeful design of maps. Purposeful Cartographic design is more than visuals and aesthetics; there is room for the Cartographer’s design decisions at every step between the initial earthly phenomenon and the end map user’s behavior. This talk will cover the modern mapping workflow from collecting and manipulating data, to combining traditional cartographic design with a contemporary UI/UX, to implementing these maps through code across multiple platforms. I will examine how these design decisions are shaped by the purpose of the map and the desire to use maps to clearly and elegantly present the world.

David Heyman is the founder and Managing Director of Axis Maps, a global interactive mapping company formed out of the cartography graduate program of the University of Wisconsin. Established in 2006, the goal of Axis Maps has been to bring the tenants and practices of traditional cartography to the medium of the Internet. Since then, they have designed and built maps for the New York Times, Popular Science, Emirates Airlines, Earth Journalism Network, Duke University and many others. They have also released the freely available indiemapper and ColorBrewer to help map-makers all over the world apply cartographic best-practices to their maps. Recently, their series of handmade typographic maps have been a return to their roots of manual cartographic production. David currently lives in Marlborough, Wiltshire.