Visual Languages Primitives

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)