Most designers know that yellow text presented against a blue background reads clearly and easily, but how many can explain why, and what really are the best ways to help others and ourselves clearly see key patterns in a bunch of data? When we use software, access a website, or view business or scientific graphics, our understanding is greatly enhanced or impeded by the way the information is presented.

This book explores the art and science of why we see objects the way we do. Based on the science of perception and vision, the author presents the key principles at work for a wide range of applications--resulting in visualization of improved clarity, utility, and persuasiveness. The book offers practical guidelines that can be applied by anyone: interaction designers, graphic designers of all kinds (including web designers), data miners, and financial analysts.

Key Features

  • Complete update of the recognized source in industry, research, and academic for applicable guidance on information visualizing.
  • Includes the latest research and state of the art information on multimedia presentation.
  • More than 160 explicit design guidelines based on vision science.
  • A new final chapter that explains the process of visual thinking and how visualizations help us to think about problems.
  • Packed with over 400 informative full color illustrations, which are key to understanding of the subject.


Professionals in user interface/user interaction designer; computer graphics, including those who are the techie type as well as those who are graphics designers; financial analysts; research scientists and engineers; data miners; and managers faced with information-intensive challenges

Table of Contents


About the Author

Chapter One. Foundations for an Applied Science of Data Visualization

Visualization Stages

Experimental Semiotics Based on Perception

Semiotics of Graphics

Sensory versus Arbitrary Symbols

Gibson’s Affordance Theory

A Model of Perceptual Processing

Costs and Benefits of Visualization

Types of Data



Chapter Two. The Environment, Optics, Resolution, and the Display

The Environment

The Eye

The Optimal Display


Chapter Three. Lightness, Brightness, Contrast, and Constancy

Neurons, Receptive Fields, and Brightness Illusions

Luminance, Brightness, Lightness, and Gamma

Perception of Surface Lightness

Monitor Illumination and Monitor Surrounds


Chapter Four. Color

Trichromacy Theory

Color Measurement

Opponent Process Theory

Properties of Color Channels

Color Appearance

Applications of Color in Visualization

Application 1: Color Specification Interfaces and Color Spaces

Application 2: Color for Labeling (Nominal Codes)

Application 3: Color Sequences for Data Maps

Application 4: Color Reproduction


Chapter Five. Visual Salience and Finding Information

Eye Movements

V1, Channels, and Tuned Receptors

Preattentive Processing and Ease of Search

Integral and Separable Dimensions: Glyph Design

Representing Quantity

The Searchlight Metaphor and Cortical Magnification


Chapter Six. Static and Moving Patterns

Gestalt Laws

Texture: Theory and Data Mapping

Perception of Transparency: Overlapping Data

Perceiving Patterns in Multidimensional Discrete Data

Pattern Learning

The Visual Grammar of Node–Link Diagrams

The Visual Grammar of Maps


No. of pages:
© 2012
Morgan Kaufmann
Print ISBN:
Electronic ISBN:


"Oh my God, the Bible just got better. There is no book that I rely on more in my work than Information Visualization: Perception for Design, and with this third edition Colin Ware has made it more indispensible and easier to apply than ever."--Stephen Few, Principal, Perceptual Edge

"Drawing on his background in both computer science and the psychology of perception, Ware (coastal and ocean mapping, U. of New Hampshire) has become a leader in three-dimensional visualization systems, such as ocean currents and the movement of whales. For this third edition of his reference on what the science of perception reveals about visualization, he has clarified the design implications of research in perception, and increased the emphasis on the process of visual thinking. The topics include foundations for an applied science of data visualization, color, static and moving pictures, visual objects and data objects, and interacting with visualization."--Reference and Research Book News, August 2012, page 7