IStoryline: Effective Convergence to Hand-drawn Storylines

Tan Tang, Sadia Rubab, Jiewen Lai, Weiwei Cui, Lingyun Yu, Yingcai Wu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Storyline visualization techniques have progressed significantly to generate illustrations of complex stories automatically. However, the visual layouts of storylines are not enhanced accordingly despite the improvement in the performance and extension of its application area. Existing methods attempt to achieve several shared optimization goals, such as reducing empty space and minimizing line crossings and wiggles. However, these goals do not always produce optimal results when compared to hand-drawn storylines. We conducted a preliminary study to learn how users translate a narrative into a hand-drawn storyline and check whether the visual elements in hand-drawn illustrations can be mapped back to appropriate narrative contexts. We also compared the hand-drawn storylines with storylines generated by the state-of-the-art methods and found they have significant differences. Our findings led to a design space that summarizes 1) how artists utilize narrative elements and 2) the sequence of actions artists follow to portray expressive and attractive storylines. We developed iStoryline, an authoring tool for integrating high-level user interactions into optimization algorithms and achieving a balance between hand-drawn storylines and automatic layouts. iStoryline allows users to create novel storyline visualizations easily according to their preferences by modifying the automatically generated layouts. The effectiveness and usability of iStoryline are studied with qualitative evaluations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8440828
Pages (from-to)769-778
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Hand-drawn illustrations
  • automatic layout
  • design space
  • interactions
  • optimization

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