3 Ways to Visualize Hierarchical Structures

I’m always thinking about alternative ways to present information to PLM software users. I think one of PLM’s challenges is to be able to present complex data in a simple way. Using 3D is one of the possibilities to reduce the complexity of data representations and visualize it for users. Hierarchical data is everywhere in PLM – product structure, bill of materials, drawing. Today, I’d like to show three possible ways to visualize hierarchical data to make it more presentable to a user.

Tree Map

A tree map is a visualization of hierarchical structures. This type of visualization is very efficient in a space constraint situation. The best you can do with such a visualization is to show attributes of leaf nodes in trees with appropriated color-coding and size. You can read more about this type of visualization on IBM’s Many Eyes project and here on 3D Perspectives. On the picture below you can see an example of a tree map visualization related to car fuel consumption. You can change the order, color code and sizing. This is, of course, depends on a specific implementation.

Botanical Tree

Here’s another interesting approach o visualizing huge structures. You can take a look at this research for more information. I found it very interesting. The authors are proposing models for tree organizing and visualization. I found this 3D visualization approach as something promising when we face a huge structure of information we want to discover. On the below image you can see the visualization of a Unix Directory using this method presented in this work.

Timeline Tree

This type of visualization, in my view, is an efficient way to combine hierarchical structure and time-related information. In many situations in product development, this is an interesting case. So, you can download and take a look at this research. I can imagine many situations when such visualization can be very useful (i.e. to present product structure with the relevant maintenance schedule and many others).

I’m sure there are many additional ways to visualize hierarchical data. I’m looking forward to your comments and discussing this.

Best, Oleg