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Ben Shneiderman and Ben Bederson recognized with IEEE VIS “Test of Time Award” for their 2001 work on Ordered Treemap Layouts

September 22nd, 2021

On October 26 Ben Shneiderman, Ben Bederson and Martin Wattenberg will receive the IEEE VIS Test of Time Award from their 2001 work on treemaps, which was published in the InfoVis conference. The greatly expanded IEEE VIS conference has unified the the conferences on information visualization, scientific visualization, and visual analytics.
This award is an important recognition for HCIL, where treemaps were invented in 1991 by Ben Shneiderman (see Treemap History) and early examples below.

Treemaps became a standard feature in Excel in 2013, and most other visualization tools.
They are widely used in journalism, especially for economic, business, international trade, and demographic data.

The award was given to the combination of 2 papers:

Ordered Treemap Layouts.
Ben Shneiderman & Martin Wattenberg

Proc. IEEE Symposium on Information Visualization 2001, 73-78. IEEE Press

and the followup journal paper
Ordered and Quantum Treemaps: Making effective use of 2D space to display hierarchies.
Benjamin B. Bederson, Ben Shneiderman, Martin Wattenberg.

ACM Transactions on Graphics, 21(4), 833-854, 2002

The thoughtful award justification statement states:

“Ordered Treemap Layouts” by Ben Shneiderman and Martin Wattenberg represents foundational work that underlies modern treemap algorithms. The 2001 InfoVis paper introduced a method to retain the order of items while also producing rectangles with low aspect ratios, similar to squarified treemaps. The approach addressed a critical problem of layout stability, where changes in the data set could result in dramatic discontinuous changes in the treemap layout. With trends towards interaction as a critical component of InfoVis system design, and the need to handle updating data, mechanisms to ensure layout stability were an important and long lasting contribution to InfoVis.

Also notable are the introduction of meaningful metrics for assessing layout quality and a systematic and rigorous evaluation of several different treemap algorithms against those metrics; as such, the paper can also be commended as an early exemplar of algorithm quality benchmarking. The followup journal version paper also introduced the quantum treemap approach suitable for laying out images within the generated rectangles, and included a user study to assess human performance benefits of the new algorithms. These two papers in combination have been cited over 1000 times (June 2021, Google Scholar), and were an important step towards the current widespread adoption of the treemap family of techniques.

The awards will be presented in a plenary ceremony at the opening session of the 2021 IEEE VIS conference on Tuesday October 26.

Video of the award presentation and comments from the authors.