A brief history of data presentation



As a combination of graphic design and data analysis, information Visualization is at an exciting intersection where logic analysis and visual expression mingle. The format, as a carrier of information and the premiere language been spoken, serves the most significant functions in this process. Therefore, to talk more about the information, it is necessary to understand what format has already been utilized and how do they function.


This project was inspired by THE INVENTION OF TODAY’S CARTOGRAPHY TECHNIQUES by Yiren Wang, and A BRIEF HISTORY OF MAPS by Veronika Kostova. Their projects went through the development of Cartography. Benefited from the feature of timelines, these two projects well illustrates the development of visualizing geographic information. And this made me consider documenting the entire process of information visualization.


Timeline.JS: An free online timeline tool used to generate the graphics

Google Sheet: the habitat for the information used in Timeline.js

Milestone Project: A online project documented all the important event in the history of Infomation Visualization

Methods and Process

Relied on the Milestone Project as the source, I went over all the significant events in the history and selected those which were making a breakthrough in visualization. These graphs explored new ways and relationships between data and visual cues. After listing all the inspiring plots in history, I added a note to each graph, stating why are they different from the others, and assign a better picture to them, if available.



Neither data nor graph is new to human civilization, our ancestors documented the position of stars thousands of years ago and the Greek played around with numbers quite fluently for pleasure. However, the presentation of data reminded on the level of documentation. And it was not until the invention of the coordinate system by Descartes that data and data analysis has become more and more popular to the public. And post-1840 benefited from the industrialization and the booming of scale, it came the first wave of visual inventions, including the famous and effective Age Pyramid. The second wave came in the early twentieth century. These graphs present a heavy scientific background where a detailed understanding of the data is necessary in order to understand the graph. And around 1960, GIS was developed and the relationship between points got emphasized, along with the trend of computers. And the last cluster of style developments is in the early 21st century. Word Cloud was invented then.