Mapping: Visualizing the World Around Us

Lab Reports, Timelines


Viewing a map can feel like an invitation to share a path and an experience. As information visuals, they are rich in storytelling. Maps can be inspiring, insightful or manipulative. They can capture not only practical knowledge but can provide historical, social, economic or political information. All maps are an effort to visualize the world around us into digestible bits.

Inspired by the Hydrographic Map of Ocean Motion by Athanasius Kircher from An Interactive Timeline of the Most Iconic Infographics (, I decided to do some research into the earliest forms of mapping, particularly those with a worldview.  Viewing world maps you can ascertain the author’s knowledge and familiarity of the world along with how they see their place in it.

Choosing some key examples, my timeline gives a glimpse into the evolution of world maps.


Data Collection
I found articles that listed collections of key and influential maps through history.  Mapping Through the Ages: The History of Cartography ( had good examples of evolving world maps.  A UK Mail article, Ten of the greatest: Maps that changed the world (, covered maps that were highly influential in history.  This research also led me to an article on the recent discovery of the oldest maps that used stars to gauge relation to the greater world (  
Using Evernote, I collected and organized my research in one place.  This enabled me to easily drop it into the Google Spreadsheet provided by TimelineJS.

Google Spreadsheet that fed timeline content.

Reference Sites


My Timeline JS Visualization

Future Considerations

The subject I chose was too vast to do justice with a dozen screens. In hindsight, I would have chosen a smaller subset, such as star maps or sociological maps, rather than attempting to do an overview of key developments in world maps.  I also chose not to include political or propaganda maps although there are several world maps of this nature.  I felt it would have changed the tone of the timeline and begged more explanation.

TimelineJS is a great tool for providing a few snapshots of information along a timeline. It is easy to learn and creates a good looking product but it is challenging to get much deeper with the material. I did not have much luck with formatting the body paragraph or adding any URLs. It would also be nice to add a bibliography at the end and allow HTML in the description body.