Towards Contextual Glyph Design

Data glyphs are composite graphical objects that harness their visual and geometric attributes to encode complex multidimensional data. These versatile representations offer numerous design possibilities, from arrows conveying vector fields to star glyphs using radial lines to encode data magnitudes.

In this Project, we present a study comparing three different glyph designs and their impact on visual perception and understanding of data, with a specific case study based on audiological tests conducted across the population of Portugal. These designs include:

  • Metaphorical Glyph: The design aims to create a visual metaphor expressing the emotions and face of a patient who experiences hearing loss. Taking inspiration from the Chernoff faces, the design employs emojis that utilize semantic connections to portray the experience of hearing loss.
  • Figurative Glyph: The second glyph design is inspired by flowers. The shape of the petals represents different regions in Portugal. Each petal corresponds to a frequency in the right and left ears, with the opacity of the filling colour encoding the gravity of hearing loss.
  • Geometric Polygon Glyph: The third glyph design consists of geometric polygonal shapes with diamonds at the centre representing the average hearing loss values of the left and right ears.
Figure 1

The three glyph designs considered for this study: metaphoric (left), figurative (center), and geometric (right)

By analysing these diverse designs, we aim to discern their respective strengths and weaknesses, providing valuable insights for various design scenarios.




  • B. N. Ramos, C. Maçãs, N. Lourenço, and E. Polisciuc, “Towards Contextual Glyph Design:Visualizing Hearing Screenings,” in Proceedings of the 27 International Conference Information Visualization (IV), 2023.