Few of my fellow nerds are visual-spatial thinkers. Some of them (ladies, mostly) have good taste and
produce not only neat charts, but clean and good looking code.
Just a little bit of color theory goes a long way for UI design and visual analytics.
The majority of my fellow nerds are logical thinkers, with no interest in fine arts and subtle matters of style and harmony.
This is unfortunate, because just a little bit of visual taste would have made they diagrams much more readable and communication more efficient.
A recent diagramming marathon brought us three rules of thumb:
1. Oversize to emphasize.
2. Oversize to show composition.
3. Cater to western readers: logic flows left-right, top-down.
Here is an example – a standard no-frills vertical tree.
What is the most important block here? Where do I begin?
“Oversize to emphasize” helps to bring some order.
Although it is possible to show composition using arrows, this approach
requires an extra step – it forces users to trace arrows.
Luckily, our brains are really good in filling gaps.
We could help readers’ brains by using the “Oversize to show composition” trick.
A useful side effect – we get rid of diagonal arrows which break linear visual flows.
Having clear visual flows helps readers.
And the most familiar flow for all of us is the text flow – from left to right, from top – down.
So, placing inputs in the left top quarter and outputs in the bottom right quarter will make the diagram naturally readable.
There is one problem. I don’t know if logical readers would care.
Are the tricks working only for visual-spatial ones?