Micro / Macro Readings
‘A method for presenting large quantities of data at high
densities in a way that a broad overview of the data is
given and yet an immense amount of detail is provided.’
• Visualising data at two levels in one image
• Micro Data (low level detail)
• Macro Data (high level detail)
• User / Viewer can get a rough idea at a
glance but also see detailed information
Layering & Separation?
• Layering & Separation == multiple types of
information + how to separate
• Micro & Macro == multiple scales of
• Maps can show geographical breakdown of
a location as well as local detail
• Geometry of land mass as well as regional
• More subtle macro readings can look into
• The circular layout of the centre of Senlis
shows its history as a Gallo-Roman
• Glasgow’s industrial history, built around
the River Clyde is apparent by the density
on its shore.
• Stirling borders a river but the lack of focus
shows its different history.
• Micro / Macro design
is not always geographic.
• This poster shows that
from the work of many
hands, one great plan
will be fulﬁlled.
• In games, it is often possible to read many
scales of information from looking at a
• character class, team, attack, defence,
Combining M/M & L&S
• The London Air Quality Network website
has to provide a very dense set of data in
an intuitive interface.
• They layer user interface elements over a
rich map which shows different types of
data as well as different scales of data.
Missile or Toothbrush?
• 7000 objects > 10 cm in diameter in space
• rocket engines, bin bags, frozen sewage,
shrapnel from tests, 1 wrench and 1
• Only 5% are functional satellites
• Necessary to track for safety of launches
• Note the ring on the second image.
• this is the geostationary orbit used by
• The scale of the problem can be seen, not
only in overall but also in terms of orbit
height and relative density of areas.
Why Micro & Macro?
• We thrive in information rich contexts
• Visually rich displays are not only
appropriate to convey information but are
often the optimal way to do so.
• If information is spread over multiple
screens, the user needs to keep that
information in memory
• If information is condensed into one
screen / graphic, it only requires
• Micro / Macro designs enforce local and
global comparisons but do so without the
need to context switch.
• Power is given to the user to decide what
level of detail is required.
Downsides of M/M
• creating good Micro / Macro design is hard.
• it is easier to have one display for each
scale of data.
• it may be necessary to gather or process
more data (e.g. stem plot vs bar chart)
• it may be difﬁcult to blend the scales
• Don’t forget that the data is never the
‘Clutter and confusion are failures of
design, not attributes of information‘