OnionGraph: Hierarchical topology+attribute multivariate network visualization

Lei Shi, Qi Liao, Hanghang Tong, Yifan Hu, Chaoli Wang, Chuang Lin, Weihong Qian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Hierarchical abstraction is a scalable strategy to deal with large networks. Existing visualization methods have allowed to aggregate the network nodes into hierarchies based on the node attributes or network topology, each of which has its own advantage. Very few previous system has the capability to enjoy the best of both worlds. This paper presents OnionGraph, an integrated framework for the exploratory visual analysis of heterogeneous multivariate networks. OnionGraph allows nodes to be aggregated based on either node attributes, topology, or a hierarchical combination of both. These aggregations can be split, merged and filtered under the focus+context interaction model, or automatically traversed by the information-theoretic navigation method. Node aggregations that contain subsets of nodes are displayed by the onion metaphor, indicating the level and details of the abstraction. We have evaluated the OnionGraph tool in three real-world cases. Performance experiments demonstrate that on a commodity desktop, our method can scale to million-node networks while preserving the interactivity for analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-57
Number of pages15
JournalVisual Informatics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2020


  • Entropy
  • Focus+context
  • Hierarchical abstraction
  • Multivariate network visualization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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