Timeline of the evolution of urban planning diagrams

Lab Reports, Timelines, Visualization
Screenshot of timeline


Using TimelineJS, I was asked to create a timeline depicting the history of a visualization of my choice. It needed to include 5-10 events with a title, description, and media accompanying each event. I chose to depict the evolution of urban planning maps and diagrams using information and images from an article by City Lab. I wanted to take the information that CityLab had already published and see how it could be improved or aided by a timeline of the maps that they were showing.

TimelineJS is a fairly simple tool that requires little visualization or programming knowledge. The softwares and materials used to create this timeline were Knight Lab’s TimelineJS, Google Spreadsheets, and City Lab’s article on the evolution of urban planning. When choosing what topic to present in my timeline, I wanted to pick something with exciting visuals in order to take advantage of TimelineJS’s multimedia options. The article on urban planning design was already divided into important dates but was not organized in chronological order. I wanted to see how the information could be improved by mapping it on a timeline.

My timeline shows a very general and incomplete evolution of urban planning movements and how they were visualized on maps and diagrams. The article highlighted key urban planners in the 18th to 20th century from Europe and the United States. I categorized the visualizations by where they were created to differentiate them on the timeline. Because many of the dates were general, I dated some of the visualizations by century. The images included in the timeline are from an exhibit that was featured in the City Lab article, and I did not include any other media.

I think the timeline looks visually appealing because of the option of both featured media and a background image or color; however, I think the generality of my dates makes my timeline misleading. Because these urban planning movements did not have definitive or notable dates, it was hard to place them securely on the timeline. I debated over whether to use the date of the creation of the map or diagram, the dates of the movement, or when the plan was introduced to the public. I ended up using the dates of when the maps were created and clarifying any additional dates in the description. Because I used more specific dates when I could find them, these movements on the timeline appear shorter visually than the ones where I approximated the century because TimelineJS extends the date ranges over the timeline using a long rectangles.

I think if I was going to create another timeline, I would have chosen one urban planner or movement to focus on and used more specific dates to use on the timeline. Additionally, I think this would allow me to take advantage of the multimedia options, like videos or maps, to fully contextualize a movement. Overall, however, I think that this timeline on urban planning is a useful visual aid for the City Lab article that captures the general evolution of urban planning visualizations.