Thumbnails for Data Stories: A Survey of Current Practices

What makes visualization thumbnails inviting and interpretable? We surveyed visualization thumbnails collected online and had conversation with experts.


When people browse online news, small thumbnail images accompanying links to articles attract their attention and help them to decide which articles to read. As an increasing proportion of online news can be construed as data journalism, we have witnessed a corresponding increase in the incorporation of visualization in article thumbnails. However, there is little research to support alternative design choices for visualization thumbnails, which include resizing, cropping, simplifying, and embellishing charts appearing within the body of the associated article. We therefore sought to better understand these design choices and determine what makes a visualization thumbnail inviting and interpretable. This paper presents our findings from a survey of visualization thumbnails collected online and from conversations with data journalists and news graphics designers. Our study reveals that there exists an uncharted design space, one that is in need of further empirical study. Our work can thus be seen as a first step toward providing structured guidance on how to design thumbnails for data stories.

Proceedings of the IEEE Conference on Visualization (IEEE VIS) Short Papers