InfoTypography work being presented at SIGGRAPH this week

This week I will be presenting at ACM SIGGRAPH (the top conference in graphics and one of the most prestigious in Computer Science) the work that Johannes Lang and I have done in Infotypography. We looked at how people perceive typographic parameters. This could support the use of these parameters to represent information.

Here is a teaser of the talk (30 seconds):

Here is a fuller, 15 min presentation ():

Here are two links to the paper:
Local copy

Here is a website with resources for using it:

For those of you who are in Vancouver attending SIGGRAPH, the presentation is:

When: Thursday August 11, 2022
Where: East Building, Ballroom C
Session: Perception

JCURA Nominations Open for next Academic Year

Jamie Cassel Undergraduate Research Awards (JCURA) nominations are open for 3rd and 4th year students at UVic. See: If you are one of these students and want to try out research in Human-computer Interaction, reach out to me by e-mail. Many of my projects are visible in, but there are many more possibilities. You might also have your own!

Just send me a short e-mail to and we will explore!

How to talk to your supervisor about what you have read

This is a post in a series of posts regarding student-supervisor communication.

Audience: you are a PhD or MSc or project student, and you meet your supervisor regularly. In the previous meeting, your supervisor asked you to do research in some topic area, perhaps by a keyword (e.g., please do some search in the area of “provenance in User Interfaces”), or perhaps through another paper (e.g., follow the references in this other paper).

Naturally, you have done the work, and you have read (there will be another post on what this means in the future) a bunch of papers. Now you come to your supervisor, eager to demonstrate that you have done what you were expected to do, and indeed, you have found and read some interesting papers.

What NOT to do

Perhaps more important than the “do’s”, consider the things that you should avoid. Unless your supervisor has explicitly asked for any of these, you should NOT:

  • Detail the contents of a paper in general (your supervisor would generally not be interested in the full content of the paper. If they already know it what is the point on repeating pretty much everything on it? If they are not familiar with it, they probably will not be interested in the full content, but only in how it relates to your own project; your supervisor has probably very little time for this, and communication about previous work usually needs to be done in an efficient way.
  • Read a summary that you have written (if you have written something about a paper, your supervisor can probably read it much faster than you can read it aloud – if you really need them to read your summary, and they agree with this, send it in advance of your meeting).
  • Forget, loose or misplace the paper (your supervisor might want to come back to it, it is your responsibility to be able to retrieve that paper quite quickly if you need to).
  • Insist on going over all the information that you have retrieved without paying attention to your supervisor’s reception of it (your supervisor). Do not discuss things that you do not think are important.

What to do

These are all items that you might not know are important, but are often key for good communication about research.

Background and context: Not all papers are created equal or are going to have the same importance. If you only list the title (and yes, the title is important), you are missing many of the ways in which your supervisor might help you filter out the really relevant papers from those which are not. More specifically, this is information that is likely to be useful:

  • Year (of publication). This information is key. The paper might be precisely about your topic of interest, but too old to have been important. Perhaps the opposite: the paper is very old and incredibly relevant, but has been ignored. Or the paper just came up last month and your supervisor is not aware of it (and should be!). Making all these judgments is much more difficult without the date.
  • Authors. It is important for you to start recognizing the people who have work a lot in that particular subarea, and their collaborators and students. Your supervisor might use that information to remember about other important papers by the same author, or to assign more weight to that paper because they trust the author (or even know it personally). Put the authors next to the title if you are showing only a subset of the paper. Sometimes knowing which institutions the authors come from can be useful. For example, if they come from a place that is well-known for research in the area.
  • Venue. Although it is not a perfect correlation, a paper published in a reputable and competitive venue is likely to be more important, since it denotes interest by the community, and some degree of rigour. A paper in a leading venue which is ignored in a literature review is also likely to cause more trouble in the review cycle, whereas most reviewers will easily forgive (or forget) a poster in an unknown or disreputable venue.
  • Format/length. Scientific publications come in many shapes and forms. For example, a valuable piece of scientific writing can be a textbook, a chapter in a textbook, a chapter in an edited book, a survey article, a long journal article, a paper, a short paper, a poster, a position paper, or even a blog or a tweet. It does not help if your notes, summary or what you are showing or describing to your supervisor hides what kind of publication it is. Your supervisor (and yourself) can use this information to determine the importance and value of that work.

Note that giving some kind of impression of the above should take very little time. You do not have to list or read aloud the whole list of authors, but having it out there so that your supervisor can take a glance at it can be very useful.

Content: An article or piece of scientific literature typically contains much information, more than you can efficiently convey within a meeting. If you have to summarize any part of the work, because you think it is relevant, this does not mean necessarily that this is going to be a piece of text. There are often different kinds of elements that might be way more effective at summarizing a paper. For example:

  • A diagram included in the paper.
  • An image of the system/technique that describes the core of the paper (or the part that is most related to your work).
  • A short fragment of video.
  • A formula.
  • A table (with results or a taxonomy)
  • A chart showing results (e.g., a bar chart).
  • A couple of sentences describing results of conclusions (yes, this is text, and is legitimate).

Note that any of the elements above might be incredibly difficult to understand in isolation, but this is why you are having a meeting: a quick few sentences can help make any of these items really effective.

Relationship: Probably the most important reason why your supervisor wants you to read a piece of scientific literature is because it relates to your work. Very often this relationship remains implicit. You should be able to describe as succinctly and accurately as possible how what you have read relates to one or more of the following (depending on the stage of your research):

  • The fundamental issues, techniques or technologies upon which your work builds upon.
  • One or more of your research questions.
  • The specific contribution that you are hoping to make in your research.
  • What you have designed/built/proposed already.
  • The methodologies that you have applied.

By making explicit the relationship between your work and what you have read, you are also communicating a number of things that are important for the supervisory relationship and signalling your level of maturity in research. For example, your supervisor will learn to what extent you are able to relate your work to the close and fairly distant (perhaps only abstractly related) pieces of literature, and whether you really understand the contributions of existing work. This is a kind of syntopical reading or deep reading that is very important for academic work.

Please let me know if you have found this article useful, or if you have concrete examples, or possible improvements that you think I can use to improve it.

Post-Doctoral Researcher Position

I am looking for a researcher/scientist interested in Human-Computer Interaction, Cognition and Information Visualization, to become part of our new and growing VIXI group as a Post-doctoral fellow.

Where: University of VictoriaVictoria, British Columbia, Canada
What: A Post-doctoral Fellowship, 1 to 2 years in length
When: Applications being evaluated now, until position filled. Start is negotiable.


  • An PhD degree in computer science, psychology/neuroscience, software design or software engineering, or a completion date for such PhD within the next few months.
  • Evidence of ability to publish in their area of expertise.
  • Experience with at least one of the following methodologies (in no particular order of importance):
    • Qualitative observation and qualitative analysis (e.g., grounded theory).
    • Controlled experiment design, execution and analysis.
    • Advanced human-sensing methodologies. For example gaze-tracking, EEG, FNRIS, motion tracking.
    • Contextual analysis.
  • Ability to program.
  • A willingness to work with and mentor students at all levels (undergraduate, MSc, PhD).

Topics and Interests

The candidate will work with current research students, with the main supervisor (Dr Miguel Nacenta) on common projects, and will also have time to further their own research. Current research interests of Dr Nacenta include:

  • Supporting non-experts in complex cognitive tasks such as planning, estimation, prediction and problem solving through novel technologies.
  • Enabling groups and communities to work effectively together on complex cognitive tasks such as planning, estimation, prediction and problem solving.
  • Finding effective representations of problems and data to enable better communication and enhanced problem solving.
  • Reducing the friction imposed by current interfaces and input devices on complex cognitive tasks.
  • Novel interfaces and visualization techniques for reading and thinking.

You can access recent published work by Dr Nacenta through his Google Scholar Profile

What to do

If you are interested in becoming our partner in learning and research, send an e-mail to nacenta(at)uvic(dot)ca with the following information:

  • A CV or resumé which includes a list of publications.
  • A cover letter that describes why you’d like to work with us, what you main skills are, and your research area of interest going forward in your research career.
  • The names, positions, and e-mail of 2 referees.

What we offer

One to two year employment as a full member of our lab and the Department of Computer Science of the University of Victoria; Salary starting at CAD$50K, but negotiable based on merit and/or experience of the candidate; Opportunities to contribute to teaching (only if so desired); A supportive community of scholars and students.

Who we are

The Victoria Interactive eXperiences with Information (VIXI) group is a newly formed research group in the areas of Human-Computer Interaction, Visualization and Cognition. With three faculty (Sowmya Somanath, Charles Perin, Miguel Nacenta), and over 16 students at different levels, we aspire to be a diverse learning community that supports the growth of each member while also contributing to research at an international level of excellence and impact.

Where we are located

Victoria is the Capital of British Columbia, the westernmost province of Canada. Surrounded by water, at the southern tip of Vancouver Island, is part of a vibrant urban area of close to 400,000 inhabitants, yet surrounded by amazing nature and parks. The city has an extensive network of cycling paths (for commuting or leisure), great access to outdoor activities (kayaking, scuba diving, mountain biking, hiking, skiing – further north in Vancouver Island or across the Salish strait), and good connections through its International Airport and ferries to the mainland and the United States. The city is extremely child-friendly and has probably the mildest climate in Canada, with an average temperature in January of 5 degrees Celsius and mild summers. Average precipitation is about half that of nearby Vancouver (107km away as the crow flies) due to the rain shadow effect of the Olympic Mountains to its South.

We acknowledge and respect the lək̓ʷəŋən peoples on whose traditional territory the University of Victoria stands and the Songhees, Esquimalt and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples whose historical relationships with the land continue to this day.

Moving to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

It has been a great 9 years in St Andrews, Scotland. Thanks Scotland for having been so welcoming, and thanks to the University of St Andrews for having supported my academic career. I will miss St Andrews and the East Neuk of Fife very much!

Although I keep working with my St Andrews friends/colleagues, and plan to do this for a long time, the University of Victoria (UVic), in the West Coast of Canada is now my new academic (and family) home. The city of Victoria is also a great place to live, with amazing views, nature and art, a growing Tech startup scene.

Aerial view of the University of Victoria

The University of Victoria is laid out around a circle (the Ring) and very close to the water.

If you are student and are interested in my research topics, I am actively searching for students, mostly in the following categories:

  • UVic honours project students
  • UVic independent study projects
  • future PhD students from UVic, Canada and overseas

I will soon refresh the research pages in this website; in the meantime, the most reliable indicator of my current research directions are my most recent papers. If you are interested in exploring possibilities working with me in Visualization, Problem Representation, Infotypography, Visual Language Interfaces or Human-Computer Interaction, just drop me a line at nacenta at uvic dot ca.

Short-term Research Assistant Position

We are offering a Short-term Research Assistant position at the SACHI group, University of St Andrews.

The work is for the design and implementation of a digital dexterity measurement device.

The School of Medicine (Silvia Paracchini) in collaboration with the Computer-Human Interaction Group (Miguel Nacenta) is offering a short appointment to help design and implement a measuring device for hand dexterity.

Here are the conditions:

  • 3 to 4 month duration, depending of intensity.
  • Flexible between 20h to 36h per week. Please note that some non-UK students might not be legally allowed to work more than 20h/week. Your visa indicates the limit.
  • Starting at the beginning of February at the latest.
  • Students 2nd to 4th year and graduate students welcome (if you can spare the time)
  • Students and non students are welcome to apply, but the work needs to take place in St Andrews, UK.
  • Approx £13/h.

Requirements and Skill.

  • Candidates need to be able to program, preferably in Java.
  • (Preferable but not required) experience with Android device programming.
  • (Preferable but not required) experience with digital modelling, 3D printing or laser cutting.

The work is of a research nature and might result in authorship in subsequent publications in peer-reviewed journals.

To apply send an e-mail to Dr Miguel Nacenta before the end of Jan 22 ( indicating:

  • Programming experience.
  • Experience with Android or other mobile platforms (optional).
  • Experience with 3D modelling, 3D printing or laser cutting (optional).
  • Availability.
  • A bit about your academic/professional background.

Send any enquiries to

Opening: Research Fellow @ SACHI on Graphics, Typography/Type Design and Visual Perception

I’m just starting to advertise a fellow position in St Andrews for a project that is a follow up of our FatFonts work. The description is suitably general (see the description here), but if you think this remotely interests you, please take a look and send me an e-mail if you have questions.

We have a great, nurturing and friendly group of students and academics, and we want to make a bit of the future with you… having fun in the meanwhile!

Prize from “La Recherche” to our Transmogrifiers paper

The French Science magazine “La Recherche” gives annual prices to contributions in different areas of scientific knowledge that come (at least in part) from French laboratories. This year they awarded one of those in the category of Information Sciences to the work that Christophe Hurter, John Brosz, Sheelagh Carpendale, Ricky Pusch and myself carried out and was published at UIST: Transmogrifiers.

tranmogrifiers2The work is a paper and a tool that enables very fast, intuitive non-linear spatial manipulations of existing data. You can learn more about the work from the paper (available free from my institutional website), and by downloading it from our transmogrifiers page.

7th Century Scholarships

The School of Computer Science at the University of St Andrews is offering a number of 7th century scholarships. If you are interested in working with me in any of my topics of interest (mostly within HCI and Information Visualization), send me a line. Here is more information about the offered projects and how to apply:

The current deadline is March 31st, 2014.

Umer graduating…

Today, Umer Rashid (almost Dr. Umer Rashid) came to my office to give me a copy of his PhD thesis: Cross-display Attention Switching in Mobile Interaction with Large Displays.

Great moment of pride and satisfaction for a job well done… Now it is time for Umer to leave the nest and show the world his best researcher skills. Good luck in Lincoln!