Syntactic Structures in Graphics

Von Yuri Engelhardt

Building upon the existing literature, we are suggesting to regard the building blocks of all graphics as falling into three main categories: a) the graphic objects that are shown (e.g. a dot, a pictogram, an arrow), b) the meaningful graphic spaces into which these objects are arranged (e.g. a geographic coordinate system, a timeline), and c) the graphic properties of these objects (e.g. their colors, their sizes). We suggest that graphic objects come in different syntactic categories, such as nodes, labels, frames, links, etc. Such syntactic categories of graphic objects can explain the permissible spatial relationships between objects in a graphic representation. In addition, syntactic categories provide a criterion for distinguishing meaningful basic constituents of graphics. Based on the above, we discuss how the concept of syntactics can be applied to graphics. Finally we distinguish different types of meaningful graphic spaces that can be used to construct graphics. Throughout the paper we relate our proposals to the relevant existing literature.