Monday, April 22, 2013

Geographical Information Systems–Based Marketing Decisions:Effects of Alternative Visualizations on Decision Quality

Ana-Marija Ozimec, Martin Natter, & Thomas Reutterer conducted a study to examine the effectiveness of different quantitative symbolization methods on maps. The researchers wanted to know which type of visualization method was the most effective with decision makers.

The symbolization styles they examined  were size-based circles and bars, shadings (value), pure (circles, bars, and shadings), combined (shadings and distortion), circles, and bars. To measure the effectiveness of these symbolization styles, the researchers examined decision accuracy, decision confidence, decision efficiency, and perceived ease of task. Below is a chart of their findings.  

The researchers found that using circles was the most effective visualization methods for decision makers. Using all four measures of effectiveness, circle symbolization was the best performing one. Other results showed the combined shadings and distortion ranked second in decision accuracy, but ranked lowest in decision confidence. Value shadings ranked lowest in decision efficiency while shadings and bars ranked lowest in perceived ease of task.


This study has direct implications to intelligence analysts. This study found that circle symbolization of quantitative information is the most effective symbolization tool for decision makers. As intelligence analysts, it is our job to continue to improve communication between ourselves and our decision makers. The results of this study can help us do that. Since GIS data can be used by all types of intelligence (national security, law enforcement, and competitive), this study can be applied across all fields as well.  

The only criticism I have is that circles as a form of quantitative symbolization may not be applicable to all types of scenarios or quantitative data. Though at this moment I cannot think of any, there might be a situation where circles are not the best form of visualization. 

Source: Ozimec, A., Natter, M., & Reutterer, T. (2010). Geographical Information Systems–Based Marketing Decisions:Effects of Alternative Visualizations on Decision Quality. Journal of Marketing, 74 (6), 94-110. Retrieved from 


  1. I found your article interesting in the fact that it dealt with the presentation of products to decision-makers and what types of symbols are the most appealing to them for products in geographical information system reports. As intelligence analysts it is crucial that we produce products that are appealing to the audience we are given them to, so I found this article to be rather relevant. I think a future study similar to this would be to figure out what types of fonts,spacing, and amount of visuals are the most appealing to decision-makers in a received analytical report. As members of the intelligence community I would think a study in that regard would be rather beneficial.

  2. Ethan -- I find this article very interesting and definitely related to the intelligence field. I agree with your critique that it seems as though there are other elements, besides circles, that would effectively communicate to the decision makers. It is certainly interesting to see the different visual elements and the varying levels of effectiveness they have on different individuals. This is certainly relevant to the field that we are in, and should be taken into consideration when information is being presented to decision makers of various backgrounds.