A good data visualization that resonates with the intended audience requires careful thought of an appropriate design space. A what-why-how Analysis Framework can be used as the scaffold to think systematically about such a space. The framework has a topology of four levels and asks three questions.

  1. A domain situation that describes the target users and consumers of information.
  2. A problem abstraction that translates the specifics of the domain to the vocabulary of vis or grammar of graphics. This includes
    1. What is shown? Or, the data abstraction
    2. Why is the user looking at it? Or, the task abstraction
  3. An idiom for the visualization. This describes
    1. How is it shown? This can be a visual encoding idiom (how the data is presented) or an interaction idiom (how the data is manipulated)
  4. An algorithm for the efficient computation and display of the data.

Source: A Multi-Level Typology of Abstract Visualization Tasks Brehmer and Munzner. IEEE TVCG 19(12):2376-2385, 2013 (Proc. InfoVis 2013)