The Impact of Shape on the Perception of Euler Diagrams

Andrew Blake, Gem Stapleton, Peter Rodgers, Liz Cheek, John Howse

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


Euler diagrams are often used for visualizing data collected into sets. However, there is a significant lack of guidance regarding graphical choices for Euler diagram layout. To address this deficiency, this paper asks the question ‘does the shape of a closed curve affect a user’s comprehension of an Euler diagram?’ By empirical study, we establish that curve shape does indeed impact on understandability. Our analysis of performance data indicates that circles perform best, followed by squares, with ellipses and rectangles jointly performing worst. We conclude that, where possible, circles should be used to draw effective Euler diagrams. Further, the ability to discriminate curves from zones and the symmetry of the curve shapes is argued to be important. We utilize perceptual theory to explain these results. As a consequence of this research, improved diagram layout decisions can be made for Euler diagrams whether they are manually or automatically drawn
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDiagrams 2014
Place of PublicationAustralia
Number of pages15
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 → …

Bibliographical note

The final publication is available at Springer via http://10.1007/978-3-662-44043-8_16


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