Diagrams and Meaning


How can diagrams have a meaning?

  • They are not pictures of anything.
  • They are not a language.
  • They use structural correspondence.
  • They follow conventions of some expert community.

Metaphor in Diagrams


Can physical metaphor help us with abstraction?

A more abstract problem

Metaphorical abstract operation

A metaphorical language

Example program


Types of Meaning


Semantic Context

Semantic Elements


Landmarks in Abstract Space


Iconic symbols

Meaningful ink

Jacques Bertin

In Semiologie Graphique (1967), Bertin described the visual variables of graphic design.

Demonstration of visual variables


Power of Abstraction


Borrowed from Scott McCloud.