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A diagram is a symbolic representation of information using visualization techniques. Diagrams have been used since ancient times on walls of caves, but became more prevalent during the Enlightenment. [1] [2] Sometimes, the technique uses a three-dimensional visualization which is then projected onto a two-dimensional surface. The word graph is sometimes used as a synonym for diagram.



The term "diagram" in its commonly used sense can have a general or specific meaning:

In science the term is used in both ways. For example, Anderson (1997) stated more generally: "diagrams are pictorial, yet abstract, representations of information, and maps, line graphs, bar charts, engineering blueprints, and architects' sketches are all examples of diagrams, whereas photographs and video are not". [3] On the other hand, Lowe (1993) defined diagrams as specifically "abstract graphic portrayals of the subject matter they represent". [4]

In the specific sense diagrams and charts contrast with computer graphics, technical illustrations, infographics, maps, and technical drawings, by showing "abstract rather than literal representations of information". [5] The essence of a diagram can be seen as: [5]

Or in Hall's (1996) words "diagrams are simplified figures, caricatures in a way, intended to convey essential meaning". [6] These simplified figures are often based on a set of rules. The basic shape according to White (1984) can be characterized in terms of "elegance, clarity, ease, pattern, simplicity, and validity". [5] Elegance is basically determined by whether or not the diagram is "the simplest and most fitting solution to a problem". [7]

There are at least the following types of diagrams:

Many of these types of diagrams are commonly generated using diagramming software such as Visio and Gliffy.

Diagrams may also be classified according to use or purpose, for example, explanatory and/or how to diagrams.

Thousands of diagram techniques exist. Some more examples follow:

Specific diagram types

See also

Related Research Articles

Technical drawing Creation of standards and the technical drawings

Technical drawing, drafting or drawing, is the act and discipline of composing drawings that visually communicate how something functions or is constructed.

Venn diagram Diagram that shows all possible logical relations between a collection of sets

A Venn diagram is a widely-used diagram style that shows the logical relation between sets, popularized by John Venn in the 1880s. The diagrams are used to teach elementary set theory, and to illustrate simple set relationships in probability, logic, statistics, linguistics and computer science. A Venn diagram uses simple closed curves drawn on a plane to represent sets. Very often, these curves are circles or ellipses.

Chart Graphical representation of data

A chart is a graphical representation for data visualization, in which "the data is represented by symbols, such as bars in a bar chart, lines in a line chart, or slices in a pie chart". A chart can represent tabular numeric data, functions or some kinds of quality structure and provides different info.

Information design is the practice of presenting information in a way that fosters an efficient and effective understanding of the information. The term has come to be used for a specific area of graphic design related to displaying information effectively, rather than just attractively or for artistic expression. Information design is closely related to the field of data visualization and is often taught as part of graphic design courses. The broad applications of information design along with its close connections to other fields of design and communication practices have created some overlap in the definitions of communication design, data visualization, and information architecture.

Graphics are visual images or designs on some surface, such as a wall, canvas, screen, paper, or stone to inform, illustrate, or entertain. In contemporary usage, it includes a pictorial representation of data, as in c manufacture, in typesetting and the graphic arts, and in educational and recreational software. Images that are generated by a computer are called computer graphics.

Scatter plot Plot using the dispersal of scattered dots to show the relationship between variables

A scatter plot is a type of plot or mathematical diagram using Cartesian coordinates to display values for typically two variables for a set of data. If the points are coded (color/shape/size), one additional variable can be displayed. The data are displayed as a collection of points, each having the value of one variable determining the position on the horizontal axis and the value of the other variable determining the position on the vertical axis.

Flowchart Diagram that represents a workflow or process

A flowchart is a type of diagram that represents a workflow or process. A flowchart can also be defined as a diagrammatic representation of an algorithm, a step-by-step approach to solving a task.

Visualization (graphics)

Visualization or visualisation is any technique for creating images, diagrams, or animations to communicate a message. Visualization through visual imagery has been an effective way to communicate both abstract and concrete ideas since the dawn of humanity. Examples from history include cave paintings, Egyptian hieroglyphs, Greek geometry, and Leonardo da Vinci's revolutionary methods of technical drawing for engineering and scientific purposes.

Pie chart

{{short description|Circular statistical graph that is divisible into slice to illustrate numerical proportion.

Infographic Graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present information quickly and clearly

Infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data, or knowledge intended to present information quickly and clearly. They can improve cognition by utilizing graphics to enhance the human visual system's ability to see patterns and trends. Similar pursuits are information visualization, data visualization, statistical graphics, information design, or information architecture. Infographics have evolved in recent years to be for mass communication, and thus are designed with fewer assumptions about the readers' knowledge base than other types of visualizations. Isotypes are an early example of infographics conveying information quickly and easily to the masses.

Non-photorealistic rendering

Non-photorealistic rendering (NPR) is an area of computer graphics that focuses on enabling a wide variety of expressive styles for digital art, in contrast to traditional computer graphics, which focuses on photorealism. NPR is inspired by other artistic modes such as painting, drawing, technical illustration, and animated cartoons. NPR has appeared in movies and video games in the form of cel-shaded animation as well as in scientific visualization, architectural illustration and experimental animation.

Flow diagram

Flow diagram is a collective term for a diagram representing a flow or set of dynamic relationships in a system. The term flow diagram is also used as a synonym for flowchart, and sometimes as a counterpart of the flowchart.

Data visualization Creation and study of the visual representation of data

Data visualization is an interdisciplinary field that deals with the graphic representation of data. It is a particularly efficient way of communicating when the data is numerous as for example a Time Series. From an academic point of view, this representation can be considered as a mapping between the original data and graphic elements. The mapping determines how the attributes of these elements vary according to the data. In this light, a bar chart is a mapping of the length of a bar to a magnitude of a variable. Since the graphic design of the mapping can adversely affect the readability of a chart, mapping is a core competency of Data visualization. Data visualization has its roots in the field of Statistics and is therefore generally considered a branch of Descriptive Statistics. However, because both design skills and statistical and computing skills are required to visualize effectively, it is argued by some authors that it is both an Art and a Science.

Diagrammatic reasoning

Diagrammatic reasoning is reasoning by means of visual representations. The study of diagrammatic reasoning is about the understanding of concepts and ideas, visualized with the use of diagrams and imagery instead of by linguistic or algebraic means.

Visual analytics

Visual analytics is an outgrowth of the fields of information visualization and scientific visualization that focuses on analytical reasoning facilitated by interactive visual interfaces.

A Cluster diagram or clustering diagram is a general type of diagram, which represents some kind of cluster. A cluster in general is a group or bunch of several discrete items that are close to each other.

Plot (graphics)

A plot is a graphical technique for representing a data set, usually as a graph showing the relationship between two or more variables. The plot can be drawn by hand or by a computer. In the past, sometimes mechanical or electronic plotters were used. Graphs are a visual representation of the relationship between variables, which are very useful for humans who can then quickly derive an understanding which may not have come from lists of values. Given a scale or ruler, graphs can also be used to read off the value of an unknown variable plotted as a function of a known one, but this can also be done with data presented in tabular form. Graphs of functions are used in mathematics, sciences, engineering, technology, finance, and other areas.

Cultural analytics refers to the use of computational, visualization, and big data methods for the exploration of contemporary and historical cultures. While digital humanities researched has focused on text data, cultural analytics has a particular focus on massive cultural data sets of visual material – both digitized visual artifacts and contemporary visual and interactive media. Taking on the challenge of how to best explore large collections of rich cultural content, cultural analytics researchers developed new methods and intuitive visual techniques that rely on high-resolution visualization and digital image processing. These methods are used to address both the existing research questions in humanities, to explore new questions, and to develop new theoretical concepts that fit the mega-scale of digital culture in the early 21st century.

Motion chart

A motion chart is a dynamic bubble chart which allows efficient and interactive exploration and visualization of longitudinal multivariate Data. Motion charts provide mechanisms for mapping ordinal, nominal and quantitative variables onto time, 2D coordinate axes, size, colors, glyphs and appearance characteristics, which facilitate the interactive display of multidimensional and temporal data.

Graph literacy is the ability to understand information that presented graphically, which are including general knowledge about how to extract information and make inferences from different graphical formats. Although related, graph literacy is distinct from other forms of literacy in the sense that it relates more specifically to one's ability to obtain meaning from information presented graphically. It can include the storage of mental representations in long-term memory, knowledge about the properties of different types of formats, and procedures to interpret them. However, similar to other types of literacy, higher graph literacy is associated with higher education levels and suggests that developing the skills required to interpret graphical information requires knowledge that is acquired through formal education and experience.


  1. Eddy, Matthew Daniel (2014). "How to See a Diagram: A Visual Anthropology of Chemical Affinity". Osiris. 29: 178–196. doi:10.1086/678093. PMID   26103754. S2CID   20432223.
  2. Eddy, Matthew Daniel. "Diagrams". In Anthony Grafton, Ann Blair and Anja Sylvia Goeing (Eds.), A Companion to the History of Information (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2020).: 397–401.
  3. Michael Anderson (1997). "Introduction to Diagrammatic Reasoning," at cs.hartford.edu. Retrieved 21 July 2008.
  4. Lowe, Richard K. (1993). "Diagrammatic information: techniques for exploring its mental representation and processing". Information Design Journal. 7 (1): 3–18. doi:10.1075/idj.7.1.01low.
  5. 1 2 3 Brasseur, Lee E. (2003). Visualizing technical information: a cultural critique. Amityville, N.Y: Baywood Pub. ISBN   0-89503-240-6.
  6. Bert S. Hall (1996). "The Didactic and the Elegant: Some Thoughts on Scientific and Technological Illustrations in the Middle Ages and Renaissance". in: B. Braigie (ed.) Picturing knowledge: historical and philosophical problems concerning the use of art in science. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. p.9
  7. White, Jan V. (1984). Using charts and graphs: 1000 ideas for visual persuasion . New York: Bowker. ISBN   0-8352-1894-5.

Further reading