Using Concrete Scales: A Practical Framework for Effective Visual Depiction of Complex Measures

Fanny Chevalier, Romain Vuillemot, Guia Gali

From financial statistics to nutritional values, we are frequently exposed to quantitative information expressed in measures of either extreme magnitudes or unfamiliar units, or both. A common practice used to comprehend such complex measures is to relate, re-express, and compare them through visual depictions using magnitudes and units that are easier to grasp. Through this practice, we create a new graphic composition that we refer to as a concrete scale. To the best of our knowledge, there are no design guidelines that exist for concrete scales despite their common use in communication, educational, and decision-making settings. We attempt to fill this void by introducing a novel framework that would serve as a practical guide for their analysis and design. Informed by a thorough analysis of graphic compositions involving complex measures and an extensive literature review of scale cognition mechanisms, our framework outlines the design space of various measure relationsムspecifically relations involving the re-expression of complex measures to more familiar conceptsムand their visual representations as graphic compositions.