The Aesthetics of the Underworld

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Nadia Boukhelifa, David J. Duke: The Aesthetics of the Underworld. In: Douglas W. Cunningham, Victoria Interrante, Paul Brown, Jon McCormack (Eds.): Eurographics Workshop on Computational Aesthetics, 2008. 41-48



Although the development of computational aesthetics has largely concentrated on 3D geometry and illustrative rendering, aesthetics are equally an important principle underlying 2D graphics and information visualization. A canonical example is Beck's design of the London underground map, which not only produced an informative and practical artefact, but also established a design aesthetic that has been widely adopted in other applications. This paper contributes a novel hybrid view to the debate on aesthetics. It arises from a practical industrial problem, that of mapping the vast network of underground assets, and producing outputs that can be readily comprehended by a range of users, from back-office planning staff through to on-site excavation teams. This work describes the link between asset drawing aesthetics and tasks, and discusses methods developed to support the presentation of integrated asset data. It distinguishes a holistic approach to visual complexity, taking clutter as one component of aesthetics, from the graph-theoretic reductionist model needed to measure and remove clutter. We argue that ?de-cluttering' does not mean loss of information, but rather repackaging details to make them more accessible. In this respect, aesthetics have a fundamental role in implementing Schneiderman's mantra of 'overview, zoom & filter, details-on-demand' for information visualization.

Extended Abstract


author = {Boukhelifa, N. and Duke, D. J.},
title = {The Aesthetics of the Underworld},
booktitle = {Proceedings of the Fourth Eurographics Conference on Computational Aesthetics in Graphics, Visualization and Imaging},
series = {Computational Aesthetics'08},
year = {2008},
isbn = {978-3-905674-08-8},
location = {Lisbon, Portugal},
pages = {41--48},
numpages = {8},
url = {, },
doi = {10.2312/COMPAESTH/COMPAESTH08/041-048},
acmid = {2381341},
publisher = {Eurographics Association},
address = {Aire-la-Ville, Switzerland, Switzerland},

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