Visual Thinking Design Patterns for Data Analysis Tools

Visual thinking design patterns are tools for designing effective visualizations. They describe best practice solutions, taking into account human perception and cognition, design and interaction methods.


Visual Thinking Design Patterns (VTDPs) are tools to help with the design of cognitively efficient visualizations.They describe human-machine cognitive processes that are executed when interactive data visualizations are used as cognitive tools. (more)

The Components of a VTDP

A VTDP is made up of a number of components including epistemic actions - these are actions to obtain further knowledge, perceptual requirements, memory loads, and a description of the visual thinking process that occurs during problem solving. (more)

The VDTP Template

Each VTDP has as standard structure beginning with a brief description of its purpose and examples of its use. (more)

Using VTDPs: from Task to Pattern

The process of building effective interactive visualizations begins with the tasks to be performed and the data available, then matches tasks and data to effective visualization techniques. (more)

A Set of VTDPs for Analytics

About this site

This site is under development by Colin Ware. The ideas expressed here began with the concept of visual thinking algorithms from the third edition of his book Information Visualization: Perception for Design. These ideas evolved substantially through collaborations with the Oculus design team under the leadership of William Wright, and Nicholas Pioch from Systems Technology Research. Discussions with Tamara Munzner, and Sheelagh Carpendale and their graduate students have also helped steer the concept. Comments and suggestions are welcome and should be addressed to Colin Ware (


The development of the VTDP concept was supported in part by the DARPA XDATA Program under Contract No. FA8750-12-C-0317 to Oculus Info Inc. and under Contract No. W31P4Q-12-C-0207 to Systems Technology Research. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of DARPA.


    Visual Thinking Design Patterns are partially funded by the DARPA XDATA project