Descriptive Imagery in Visualization

The imagery that is presented in information visualizations has a significant impact on our understanding of the subject matter, and thus the creators of such information visualizations choose that imagery very carefully. However, creators’ motivations behind imagery curation and approaches to designing have changed significantly over time. Through this timeline, I explore a few different historical approaches to using descriptive imagery in information visualizations.



To create this timeline, I used TimelineJS, a web-based software that helps users easily create timelines using google sheets. 


Drawing from the examples we examined in the reading and reviewed during the lecture in class, I pulled the five images that stood out to me most as representing different approaches to using descriptive imagery in information visualization. 

I focused on information visualizations in which the graphics presented have a significant impact on the viewer’s understanding of the information presented. 

Results and Interpretations

The amount of decoration depicted in the images decreases towards the center of the timeline and increases again towards the end. Both of these changes indicate a purposeful attempt to ensure that the imagery depicted in the visualizations is being employed to have an economic impact on the viewer’s understanding of the data.


In choosing my images titles, I tried to distill the information I was trying to present into the most catchy and digestible form that I could. I think this was successful. However, my entry on the timeline is supposed to show up at 1400, and for some reason, the timeline does not appear to go back that far. I’m not sure why that happened. I think ultimately I’ll develop a deeper understanding of the tool with more practice, most likely if I am using it to serve a larger project.