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Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Fascination with Circular Things

Good piece by Stephen Few, on why we choose circular graphical forms for data visualization. Also related another post on circular visual forms.

Our Irresistible Fascination with All Things Circular
Stephen Few, Perceptual Edge

We humans are drawn to circles. From prehistoric gathering places in the round, to Hindu mandalas, to halos that float over the heads of saints, to modern pie charts, we find circles naturally satisfying. I suspect that those parts of us that crave symmetry, wholeness, and closure take comfort in them. A circular archetype must reside deep in our psyches, which swaddles us in a snug, corner-less nest. Despite the undeniable beauty of their perfect form, however, circles often fail to support the functions that we assign to them. This is especially so in the field of data visualization. Elegance of form is undermined when a square-peg function is forced upon a circle... '

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