Evaluating the impact of clutter in Euler diagrams

Mohanad Alqadah, Gem Stapleton, John Howse, Peter Chapman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNConference contribution with ISSN or ISBNpeer-review


Euler diagrams, used to visualize data and as a basis for visual languages, are an effective representation of information, but they can become cluttered. Previous research established a measure of Euler diagram clutter, empirically shown to correspond with how people perceive clutter. However, the impact of clutter on user understanding is unknown. An empirical study was executed with three levels of diagram clutter. We found a significant effect: increased diagram clutter leads to significantly worse performance, measured by time and error rates. In addition, we found a significant effect of zone (a region in the diagram) clutter on time and error rates. Surprisingly, the zones with a middle level of clutter had the highest error rate compared to the zones with lowest and the highest clutter. Also, the questions whose answers were placed in zones with medium clutter had the highest mean time taken to answer questions. In conclusion, both diagram clutter and zone clutter impact the interpretation of Euler diagrams. Consequently, future work will establish whether a single, but cluttered, Euler diagram is a more effective representation of information than multiple, but less cluttered, Euler diagrams.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 8th International Conference, Diagrams 2014
Place of PublicationGermany
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9783662440438
ISBN (Print)9783662440438
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014
EventDiagrams 2014 - Melbourne, Australia, 28 July - 1 August 2014
Duration: 1 Jan 2014 → …

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science


ConferenceDiagrams 2014
Period1/01/14 → …


  • Euler diagrams
  • clutter
  • diagram comprehension


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