A universal grammar for specifying visualization types

Yuri Engelhardt*, Clive Richards

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review

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A ‘universal grammar’ for the full spectrum of visualization types is discussed. The grammar enables the analysis of any type of visualization regarding its syntactic constituents, such as the types of visual encodings and visual components that are used. Such an analysis of a type of visualization, describing its compositional syntax, can be represented as a specification tree. Colour coded tree branches between constituent types enforce the combination rules visually. We discuss how these specification trees differ from linguistic parse trees, and how visual statements differ from verbal statements. The grammar offers a basis for generating visualization options, and the potential for formalization and for machine-readable specifications. This may serve as a basis for a system providing computer-generated visualization advice.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDiagrammatic Representation and Inference - 12th International Conference, Diagrams 2021, Proceedings
EditorsAmrita Basu, Gem Stapleton, Sven Linker, Catherine Legg, Emmanuel Manalo, Petrucio Viana
Number of pages9
ISBN (Print)9783030860615
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sept 2021
Event12th International Conference on the Theory and Application of Diagrams, Diagrams 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: 28 Sept 202130 Sept 2021
Conference number: 12

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)
Volume12909 LNAI
ISSN (Print)0302-9743
ISSN (Electronic)1611-3349


Conference12th International Conference on the Theory and Application of Diagrams, Diagrams 2021
Abbreviated titleDiagrams 2021
CityVirtual, Online


  • Comparing verbal and visual statements
  • Comparing visualization types
  • Specification trees of visualization types
  • Syntax of diagrams
  • Visual encodings
  • Visualization types
  • Visually enforced syntax rules


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