Printmaking, Puzzles, and Studio Closets: Using Artistic Metaphors to Reimagine the User Interface for Designing Immersive Visualizations

Bridger Herman, Francesca Samsel, Annie Bares, Seth Johnson, Greg Abram, Daniel F. Keefe

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


We, as a society, need artists to help us interpret and explain science, but what does an artist's studio look like when today's science is built upon the language of large, increasingly complex data? This paper presents a data visualization design interface that lifts the barriers for artists to engage with actively studied, 3D multivariate datasets. To accomplish this, the interface must weave together the need for creative artistic processes and the challenging constraints of real-time, data-driven 3D computer graphics. The result is an interface for a technical process, but technical in the way artistic printmaking is technical, not in the sense of computer scripting and programming. Using metaphor, computer graphics algorithms and shader program parameters are reimagined as tools in an artist's printmaking studio. These artistic metaphors and language are merged with a puzzle-piece approach to visual programming and matching iconography. Finally, artists access the interface using a web browser, making it possible to design immersive multivariate data visualizations that can be displayed in VR and AR environments using familiar drawing tablets and touch screens. We report on insights from the interdisciplinary design of the interface and early feedback from artists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings - 2020 IEEE VIS Arts Program, VISAP 2020
EditorsErik Brunvand, Yoon Chung Han, Carmen Hull, Maria Lantin
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781728185538
StatePublished - Oct 2020
Event2020 IEEE VIS Arts Program, VISAP 2020 - Virtual, Salt Lake City, United States
Duration: Oct 27 2020Oct 29 2020

Publication series

NameProceedings - 2020 IEEE VIS Arts Program, VISAP 2020


Conference2020 IEEE VIS Arts Program, VISAP 2020
CountryUnited States
CityVirtual, Salt Lake City

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation (IIS-1704604 & IIS-1704904). MPAS-Oceansimulations were conducted by Mark Petersen, Phillip Wolfram,Mathew Maltrud and Xylar Asay-Davis as part of the Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM) project, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Science, Office of Biological and EnvironmentalResearch with analyses conducted by PJW, MEM, and RXB under ARPA-E Funding Opportunity No. DE-FOA-0001726.E3SM simulations are conducted at Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (contract DE-AC02-06CH11357)National; Energy Research Scientific Computing Center(DE-AC05-00OR22725)Oak; RidgeLeadershipComputingFa-cility(DE-AC05-00OR22725)Ar; gonneNat. Lab. high-performance computing cluster, provided by BER Earth System Modeling; and Los AlamosNat. Lab. InstitutionalComputing,USDOENNSA(DE-AC52-06NA25396).The authors would also like to thank the artists who tried out the interface, and WingateStudio for providing the printmaking images.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 IEEE.


  • Art and visualization
  • data visualization
  • user interfaces
  • visualization design

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