Human processing of graphical information is a topic which has wide-reaching implications for decision-making in a variety of contexts. A deeper understanding of the processes of graphical perception can lead to the development of design guidelines which can enhance performance in graphical perception tasks. This study evaluates the data-ink ratio guideline, which recommends the removal of non-data graph elements, resulting in minimalist graph designs. In an experiment, participants answered graph comprehension questions using bar graphs and boxplots with varying data-ink ratios. Participants answered questions with similar levels of accuracy and mental effort. Some participants drew on graphs, reducing the data-ink ratio of high and medium data-ink stimuli. Additionally, expert interviews were conducted regarding graph use, graph creation, and opinions about the data-ink concept and example graphs. Interviewees had a variety of opinions and preferences with regard to graph design, many of which were dependent upon the specific circumstances of presentation. Most interviewees did not think that high data-ink graph designs were superior. These results suggest that data-ink maximization does not improve performance in graph comprehensions tasks, and that arguments regarding the data-ink ratio deal with the subjective issue of graph aesthetics.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Reading comprehension; Visual communication--Research; Information visualization; Graphic methods

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Experimental Psychology (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Psychology (CLA)


Andrew Herbert

Advisor/Committee Member

Elena Fedorovskaya

Advisor/Committee Member

Tina Sutton


Physical copy available from RIT's Wallace Library at LB1050.45 .M34 2015


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes