VL/HCC 2012




The Art and Science of Diagramming: Communicating Effectively Using Diagrams (TutASD)

Date:  October 4, 2012

Held by: 
Dr Daniel Moody
Director, Ozemantics Pty Ltd, Sydney, Australia
Adjunct Professor,
University of Twente,
The Netherlands

Please register here
Brief Bio:
Daniel Moody is Director of Ozemantics, a Sydney based information management consultancy firm and Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Business at the University of Twente (The Netherlands). He is recognised as one of Australia’s leading experts in data modelling and data management and has an international reputation in these fields. He holds a PhD in Information Systems from the University of Melbourne and has held senior positions in some of Australia’s leading corporations and consultancy firms.

The goal of this tutorial is to teach participants how to produce cognitively effective diagrams: diagrams that are optimised for human understanding and problem solving. It defines a set of 7 evidence-based principles for producing effective diagrams, summarised in the “fishbone” (cause-effect) diagram below. These principles are not based on intuition, opinion and experience like those currently used in practice, but on theory and empirical evidence drawn from a wide range of fields. Principles for cognitively effective diagrams.
Topics covered include:
  • What is a “good” diagram and how can this be measured?
  • Common mistakes in diagramming practice and how to avoid them
  • Principles of graphic design: the range of techniques available for encoding information in graphical form
  • Principles of visual perception and cognition: how diagrams are processed by the human mind
  • Principles for cognitively effective diagrams: how to produce diagrams that are optimised for processing by the human mind.

Learning Objectives:
In this tutorial, participants will learn how to construct diagrams that are optimised for processing by the human mind. This will be beneficial for anyone who uses diagrams in their work.
At the end of the tutorial, participants will:
  • Understand what is meant by a “good” diagram and how to measure this
  • Be aware of the urban myths, erroneous assumptions and flawed heuristics used in IT practice
  • Understand the full range of techniques available for graphically encoding information (the “visual alphabet”) and how to use them effectively
  • Understand how diagrams are processed by the human mind: principles of visual perception and cognition
  • Know how to construct diagrams that optimise human understanding and problem solving.

The tutorial should be of interest to all IT practitioners, regardless of their specialty – project managers, business analysts, software developers, network designers – all of whom use diagrams in their work. The tutorial will give participants “hands on” experience in applying the principles to a range of diagram types.

Tutorial History:
This tutorial has been endorsed by the Australian Computer Society (ACS) as part of their national professional development programme. In 2012, it was selected for presentation around Australia (12 cities) as part of their Education Across the Nation programme. In 2011, it was presented to a full house (100+ people) at the ACS Branch Forum in Sydney and received a 97% approval rating, one of the highest ratings ever received.
The tutorial has also been presented at a range of conferences and professional associations around the world, including:
  • Data Management Association (DAMA) International Symposium, Boston, USA, 2007
  • Information Resource Management Association of Canada (IRMAC), Toronto, Canada, 2007
  • DAMA Europe, London, England, 2007 and 2008
  • DAMA Scandinavia, Stockholm, Sweden, 2008
  • Enterprise Data World, Orlando, Florida, USA, 2009
  • DAMA Sydney, Australia 2010, 2011
  • Australian Computer Society (ACS) Canberra, Australia, 2011
  • DAMA Canberra, Australia, 2011 and DAMA Melbourne, Australia, 2011
  • 19th IEEE International Conference onRequirements Engineering (RE11), Trento, Italy, 2011.

The tutorial will be highly interactive, with a strong emphasis on learning by doing. A wide range of examples and practical exercises are used to give participants first hand experience in applying the diagramming principles.
Examples and exercises feature some of the most widely used diagram types in IT practice (e.g. UML, ER, BPMN) as well as diagrams from other fields (e.g. mindmaps, organisational charts, flowcharts).

  • The importance of diagrams in IT practice
  • What is a diagram?
  • What is a “good” diagram?
  • The current state of diagramming practice
  • Best practices and urban myths
  • CASE tools and drawing tools
  • How diagrams communicate
  • Theories of graphic design
  • Theories of visual perception and cognition
  • Evidence-based diagramming: principles for producing effective diagrams
  • Principle of discriminability: diagrams should be easy to read
  • Principle of modularity: diagrams should not overload the circuitry of the human mind
  • Principle of cognitive integration: include mechanisms to support navigation between diagrams and holistic understanding
  • Principle of emphasis: draw attention to the most important information
  • Principle of structure: group related information together
  • Principle of identification: diagrams should be clearly labelled
  • Principle of visual expressiveness: use the full range of visual variables and minimise visual variation (noise)
  • Conclusion: a manifesto for effective diagramming

Updated on September 14th, 2012 | §Permalink