900 Years of Tree Diagrams, the Most Important Data Viz Tool in History

Knowledge
Berto Jongman
Berto Jongman

900 Years of Tree Diagrams, the Most Important Data Viz Tool in History

By Kyle VanHemert

WIRED, 04.08.14

You’d be excused for thinking infographics are a modern invention. We’ve witnessed an explosion of data visualization in the last half decade, and only occasionally are we reminded of the field’s historical forebears, like Florence Nightingale’s polar area diagram of causes of death in the Civil War from 1858, or Charles Joseph Minard’s sophisticated flow map of Napoleon’s ruinous Russian campaign, published in 1869.

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

A new book by designer Manuel Lima, however, shows that data viz’s roots go much deeper–some 900 years, at the very least. And calling them “roots” is very much appropriate.

The Book of Trees: Visualizing Branches of Knowledge catalogs a stunning diversity of illustrations and graphics that rely on arboreal models for representing information. It’s a visual metaphor that’s found across cultures throughout history–a data viz tool that has outlived empires and endured huge upheavals in the arts and sciences.

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Worth a Look: Nokia and Information Mapping

IO Mapping
Manuel Lima & Nokia
Manuel Lima & Nokia

After 3 years living, studying, working and teaching in NYC, Manuel moved to London where he currently works as a Senior User Experience Designer at Nokia’s NextGen Software & Services. Manuel is also a frequent speaker in conferences and festivals around the world, on the topic of Information Visualization, in particular the visualization of complex networks.

Manuel Lima's Home Page
Manuel Lima's Home Page
Art (62)
Biology (50)
Business Networks (24)
Computer Systems (27)
Food Webs (7)
Internet (30)
Knowledge Networks (103)
Multi-Domain Representation (59)
Music (31)
Others (54)
Pattern Recognition (24)
Political Networks (20)
Semantic Networks (30)
Social Networks (88)
Transportation Networks (45)
World Wide Web (54)