History of Data Visualization


By Maria Menendez Intriago


In recent years, as people and companies have understand the importance of data visualization and the many benefits that it has if properly analyzed such as business growth, facilitate understanding information to the human brain, get insights, and accurate analysis, the file has exponentially growth. The creation of computers certainly had a push in the promotion of data visualization as more larger data sets where available and the need to more rapidly analyze and understand them happened.

This timeline focuses on the origins and progress of data visualization from the early stages centuries ago when visualization had to be carved into rocks al the way to a fully digital experience now a days. The field of data visualization keeps growing and new mediums of presenting data are created often, the timeline below will walk you through this progress, mainly focusing on a pre-technology experience. It consist of 14 turn points in data visualization history.


For the purpose of creating the timeline I used Timeline.js by Knight Lab. This timeline generator provides user with a template to be filled out with information an then published. It has a standard format and background can be changed if wanted. This is available for anyone to access on the web once timeline is published. Timeline is presented on a “slide” format where a brief description can be added as well as an image. Timeline.js makes the experience of creating a timeline not boring but visually appealing.


When requested to build a timeline on data visualization I decided to focus on the history itself of data visualization. My experience on the field is narrowed and have not had much experience, so it was a learning assignment for sure. I started my research through several channels as many of them did not explained in a clear way for me to understand what happened in that period of time which would not allowed me to clearly add my personal view of the matter on my timeline.

I started to gather my data and ended up having 14 different events to represent for the history of data visualization. I wanted to capture the most relevant milestones and felt like cutting one of them out would take away for the flow process. After further researching in the 14 events I decided on, I proceeded to add short descriptions about each one, along with the period of time this happened in and the most iconic image that best represented the time.

I added short descriptions, times, titles and of course images to Timeline.js template on excel. At the beginning I was not sure how will the excel file translated into an actual timeline, so I had a little difficulty visualizing a result. Once I got a hold of how to use the excel template, it was very simple to navigate and quite self explanatory.


As I started to work on the template I was unsure if I could do any changes after publishing so I wanted to make sure everything was summarized in the best possible way with accurate dates. Once published I was surprised with the easiness of creating such a visually appealing timeline through an excel template. It was certainly a nice surprise, also I could still make updates on the excel template and could be seen almost immediately in the published timeline.

Timeline started in an opening slide that I added as I wanted to give a brief intro into what was about to be seen by viewers. The image selected was one available on the internet and did too exactly had the heading wording as I would have wanted, but it image represented the timeline in the proper manner.

I aimed to keep slides brief bur conscience as the purpose of the timeline is to give and overview and allow users to explore the whole timeline and read the paragraphs rather than just skipping them.

Figure 1.1 Image of one of the slides from the timeline on Data Visualization


Using Timeline.js was a great experience as it has become a tool that I’ve been able to use for one of my other classes after being exposed to it during this Lab. The easiness that it allows to users to present professional works is useful. For the purpose of this lab, timeline.js allowed me to showcase my research in the chosen topic in a chronological order along with appropriate imagery.

I definitely want to explore more things to do with timeline.js as I would like to change fonts and colors. During my brief research about settings to update on timeline.js I also noticed that there is a possibility to change how users see the bottom timeline bar and this can be personified. Also, I would like to be able to add to the internet the images that I want to use rather than just being stuck with the ones that google /internet provides as sometimes it does not reflect what I want to translate.