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Visual displays are depictions that convey information by means of elements beyond pure text. Examples discussed in this entry include graphic design, drawings, maps, visual interfaces, and data visualization. The common factor in all of these is their reliance on the “visual intelligence” of humans to organize graphically presented information in a way that makes it easier to understand. The design of an effective visual display is based on general principles involving both the nature of human vision and the nature of the task. The particular medium used—paper, canvas, computer monitor—is irrelevant.

The use of visual displays has a long history. Drawings were used tens of thousand of years ago, likely for teaching. With the advent of writing, text became the dominant means of transmitting information ...

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