The guessing game: The following three sketches are made based on general attributes of a pie chart, a line graph and a Venn diagram perceived by sighted users. Please listen to each sketch and try to map each sketch to one of these three diagrams. Please share your results as well as your thought process or any interesting insights:




Answers and Received Feedback:

Sketch#1 is supposed to represent a Line Graph. It is tried to use natural sounds in this sketch to see how natural affordances help listeners identify the presented values.

  • The Drum sound is representing the X axis that is increasing e.g. 0-100.
    • Listeners assumed this was one of the values that was increasing over time.
    • Due to its rhythmic sound, the listeners were not able to clearly identify the units. 
  • The rain sound is representing the line. Volume increase and decrease indicates high and low points in the sound.
    • Most listeners identified the increases and decreases in the rain sound and associated it with a value that goes up and down.
  • The thunderstorm naturally happens when the rain is at its peak. Thus, this sound is used to represent the highest point in the line.
    • Some listeners assumed this is a separate value and not related to the rain sound.
  • Most often when the rain stops, you can hear birds singing. Thus, bird sound is used to represent the lowest points in the line.
    • Most listeners did not associate the bird sound with the rain sound and assumed that was a separate value.

Sketch#2 is supposed to represent a Pie Chart. It is tried to use sounds from the same family to represent a whole.

  • The choir pitch represents different sections of a pie chart and the length of each section represents it's relative size to the whole as well as to the other sections.
    • Most listeners were able to identify this piece as a pie chart, since there was a clear distinction between sections yet they were from the same sound family.

Sketch#3 is supposed to present a Venn diagram with three sections.

  • Each section is presented with a different type of instrument. The overlapping sounds represent the overlapping areas of the diagram.
    • This was confusing for most listeners. They were not able to identify what the overlapping sounds were indicating, specially when all three sounds were played together.
  • The metronome sound is used to show the relative size of each bubble in the Venn diagram.
    • This was very confusing for many users and assumed this piece was a line graph.

Overall feedback:

  • Adding an audio legend to the beginning of the piece
  • Trying to stay away from thematic sounds which distract the listener
  • Having time unit e.g. metronome sounds is appropriate for line graphs or bar charts not for pie charts or Venn diagrams
  • Be very careful about changing pitch and volume as visually impaired listeners could quickly pick up subtle differences


The following sonification sketches are based on the attached sketch to explore different ways of sonifying a Pie chart. Unlike the Round#1 Sketches, these ones are made based on a real pie chart and the timing of each value is very close to an accurate measure. A legend has been added to the piece. In the first sketch, the timing and values have 1:1 proportion, however, the timing has been cut into half for the rest of the sketches. Before listening please start with low volume and then adjust based on your preference. The goal is to spot the dominant Operating Systems market shares by listening to the following sketches.






Received Feedback:

  • #1 and #2 -both of these make the relative proportions really clear. Prefer not to hear a pause between the segments, since you’ve got the bell indicating the start of a segment. Remove the Bell sound all together and let the segments flow to each other. It would be easier for user to listen to segments in order.
  • #3 - Difficult to differentiate between the individual sounds.
  • #4 - For the shorter/smaller segments, it may be difficult to hear it over top of all the other sounds. But it is really interesting to see how it describes the relative proportions between the segments as well as each segment relative to the whole. It would be easier for user to listen to segments in order.
  • #5 - This one really confusing - Couldn't tell why some segments overlap and others don’t, and in general couldn’t figure out what was happening.


Round#2 sketches have been edited based on the feedback received from the team. The following changes have been applied:

  • Sketch#1:
    • The segments are ordered from large to small to make it easier for listener to spot the more dominant segments.
    • The bell sound indicating start of a segment has been removed. The moment of silence between segments has been removed.
  • Sketch#2:
    • The segments are ordered from large to small.
    • The bell sound indicating  start of a segment has been removed.
    • The double bell sound that indicates looping is replaced by single bell sound.
  • Sketch#4:
    • The Highlighted pieces are ordered from large to small.
  • Sketch#5:
    • sounds are split into smaller pieces and are more distributed throughout the piece.

Sonification-PieChart-Sketch#1-Legend-ordered-no bell.mp3

Sonification-PieChart-Sketch#2-Legend-ordered-no bell.mp3



Pie Chart Tool

To start exploring how charts and graphs can be visualized, the team is going to test building a tool that can both visualize a pie chart and also create a sonic version of it. The following sketch has been proposed, and it is being reviewed by the team for further modifications.


Pie Chart Tool Implementation:

The following wireframes display 4 phases of the pie chart tool development. In the first phase, only the essential features are integrated. In the following phases, additional features are integrated to enable customization of the entire chart as well as its individual sections.

Sonification Sound Tracks for Pie Chart Authoring Tool

The following sound tracks can be used to create the sonic pie chart. They are kept under 4 seconds long and made ready for looping.