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With visualization or illustration (making visible) one generally means bringing abstract data (e.g. texts) and contexts into a graphic or visually comprehensible form. This includes, for example, the implementation of a marketing concept through a commercial, the development of a script from a drama, or the gesture-rich portrayal of a situation in a lecture or process visualization in the technical area. In particular, visualization describes the process of translating contexts that are difficult to formulate linguistically or logically into visual media in order to make them understandable. Furthermore, visualization is used to make a certain connection clear, which results from a given database, but which is not immediately clear.

Details of the output data that are negligible in the context of the desired statement are omitted . In addition, design decisions must always be made as to which visual implementation is suitable and which context should be emphasized if necessary. Visualizations therefore always imply an interpretation of the initial data, but are also supplemented by textual or linguistic information in order to communicate a certain interpretation. Finally, visualization is also used purely for illustrative purposes, for example to counterbalance the body of the text without conveying any specific message.

Manual , printed and computer graphics , data tables , film and computer animation are used as media for visualization .

A successful example of a complex visualization: the age pyramid separated by gender.
The predicted age distribution is shown (for Germany in 2050). At a glance you can see, for example, that there will be as many 90-year-olds as there will be newborns, or that women tend to get older than men. What this visualization does not show is the development over time from today until there.

Areas of application

  • A boss shows the sales figures for the last quarter in a bar chart .
  • Spatial data, e.g. B. the distribution of population density in Germany are shown and illustrated on a map (geovisualization, cartography ).
  • The turbine engineer can visualize the air flow using the densities and observes the course over time in a film.
  • The chemist likes to see a protein structure as a 3D molecule representation on the screen , three-dimensional with polarization shutter glasses, and might also want to rotate the molecule.
  • The traffic planner plans a new traffic light at a traffic intersection and the simulation software visualizes the changed traffic flow to monitor the intersection.
  • An architect plans a new building and uses a visualization to show how it will fit into the existing environment. Visualization using 3D computer graphics is widespread for this purpose.
  • When renovating or designing buildings, customer advisors often use visualization programs to make decisions. On the basis of a real photo, various change requests such as For example, new doors, colored windows or a completely new roof can be “tried on” realistically.
  • In process automation, entire industrial plants are controlled and monitored via screen. The individual units are displayed as blocks, status queries and manual interventions are carried out with a click of the mouse.
  • A well-known example of scientific visualization is the weather report on television .

In the industrial and technical area there is special software, so-called visualization systems, for the visualization of process sequences .

For media players , visualizations refer to techniques for displaying played music in the form of moving images.

Data visualization

The science of data visualization leverages knowledge of

in order to systematically derive application-related visual metaphors for the correct, efficient and comprehensive recognition of data patterns. The visualization activity is a part which is initially separated from it and which is schematized by the visualization pipeline.

Visualization pipeline

The visualization pipeline specifies the process chain by means of which data is converted into images. It consists of functions connected in series for generating, filtering and cleaning data, for mapping the data onto geometries and materials, for rendering these objects and for displaying the rendered image. The extended visualization pipeline paradigm includes interactive execution or control by at least one viewer.

The implementation of the visualization pipeline as a visualization program on a computer is not absolutely necessary, but increasingly implied . Its use then complements the automated finding and evaluation of data patterns as part of data mining .

The following principle is common:

Data (extraction) → filter (cleansing) → conversion (on geometry and attributes) → display (depending on perspective, display technology)

Scientific visualization

The scientific visualization is the science and methodology of visualization of measured data or simulation results are allocated where the final physical processes. Fields of application come from engineering and natural sciences. A scientific visualization must meet three criteria:

  1. Expressiveness (ability to express yourself): The presentation should only show what is actually contained in the data and not suggest any false statements.
  2. Effectiveness: The representation should do justice to the visual abilities of humans.
  3. Appropriateness (adequacy): The generation of the representations must not be excessively expensive (e.g. computing time).

As a specialty of scientific visualization , medical visualization includes the research and application of methods for the visualization of living things for the purpose of medical diagnosis.

Information visualization

The information visualization is the visualization of abstract data, which are not associated directly with physical states and processes. These are, for example, documents, stock market results and demographic data. The same applies to the visualization of key figures, analysis values ​​and reports. These are usually based on numbers and characters that are often in tabular form.

Visualization in art

The well-known German landscape painter Caspar David Friedrich provides us with an individualistic example of visualization in the fine arts with his statement:

“Close your physical eye so that you see your image first with the spiritual eye. Then bring to light what you saw in the dark, that it affects others from the outside in. "

Visualization in architecture

In architecture and interior design, the term visualization describes the pictorial representation of a planned building or an urban situation. The visualization takes the place of technical drawings , which are often difficult to read for laypeople.


Logo "WWF"

Information or ideas are graphically condensed in logos . You can be legally protected.
Example: WWF (World Wide Fund For Nature)


"Green Dot" label

In labels , concepts or brands are e.g. B. represented by symbols. You can be legally protected.
Example: Green Dot


Political, social and personal experiences and ideas are optically condensed in cartoons and comics .
Example: Mordillo , Walt Disney


In portraits personalities and their life stories are included.
Example: Einstein (here even in a formula )


bar chart

Diagrams make connections visually tangible.
Example: energy concept


Schematic representation of the formation of the Hohentwiel

In general, a description of a situation that is limited to the essentials, see e.g. B. R&I flow diagram .


"Escape route" pictogram

A pictogram replaces brief written instructions.
Example: escape route


Photo by "Mare Frisium"

A photo makes content immediately tangible.
Example: Photo by Mare Frisium

Bulletin board

Bulletin board

Pinboard moderation visualizes ideas, developments, group processes.


Visualization is a cross-sectional science that - in addition to the field of application of computer graphics - can also be understood as:

Someone who wants to create a visualization of a state of affairs has to

  • Have an understanding of the underlying relationships,
  • know the recipient of his visualization,
  • know how these relationships are best explained to the recipient,
  • be able to implement the visualization project, i.e. master the appropriate tools and know their limits,
  • Have basic knowledge of optical sensory channels ,
  • record the content of the conversation and summarize it without adding, falsifying or commenting on it,
  • the red thread recognize and central aspects of the conversation history and keep a presence for attendees,
  • clearly document an increasing interaction density.

Technical product visualization

Technical product visualization is the 3D representation of a product geometry. Since the recipient usually does not need all the information that is available in a CAD data model, this can be simplified.


Today, visualizations can be created very easily on the computer using visualization programs. There is a wide range of programs for a wide variety of tasks. 3D visualizations are becoming increasingly important in companies and are no longer used exclusively for advertising purposes. In sales, in distribution for internal presentations, for product development and in PR and public relations work, visualizations are becoming increasingly important. In order to make the visualizations available to the entire company and also to external partners and suppliers, the media created once are prepared for a variety of uses (print, web, video, CD-ROM, etc.) and managed in a central database. And all of this is possible while the products are still in the planning or production phase. Image elements or entire image worlds are created artificially or integrated into real images. Classically filmed images or images recorded on video tapes are digitized, processed and provided with visual effects. Moving or still images are retouched, corrected or combined to create new, absolutely real-looking images.

See also


Individual evidence

  1. Josef W. Seifert : Visualize, Present, Moderate, 26th edition, Offenbach 2009, pp. 11–46.