Visual languages are based on certain common primitive elements for express the intended message, situtation or subject.
As far as I can see, the most used are…
Concepts: Individual visual representation of ideas.
- Concrete objects: Object with at least a name or title for identification purposes and with the capability of being resized or moved across the containing layout.
- Grouped objects: Shown as one, later expanded in the same space or in a new one. This is the base for composable visualizations.
- References: Shortcuts to external objects, either respect to object of the same document but in another page or links to files or internet URLs.
Relationships: Connections between ideas, representing a semantic nexus.
- Communication: Sending/receiving of information.
- Action: Process execution flow.
- Structure: Set of well arranged components that constitute an entity, so that it shows their association and dependencies.
Layout: Acomodation of the visual elements in a predefined way.
- Centered (such as in mind maps, using radial or hyperbolic trees).
- Table (rows and columns, also called Tabular)
- Hierarchical Tree
- Column based flow (made for vertical expansion, such as UML Sequence Diagrams)
- Row based flow (made for horizontal expansion, such as Gantt Charts)
- Free (such as in concept maps), but mantaining a relative distance between nodes for comfortable reading.
Title and Accesories
- Main title, maybe with a context reference.
- Notes and visual cues (such as icons and legends, the later is very important for non domain-versed audience)
- Extra Information (References, summaries and tables)