History of Information Design
FROM MONASTERIES TO MEDIA
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Book of Kells:
Gospel of John
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Book of Kells:
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Book of Kells:
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Secular Books & European Universities
Trinity College (1592) Oxford (915)
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Dissection at the Faculty of Montpellier
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Galileo Galilei’ Rings of Saturn
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First Steps in
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Willson’s Primary Speller (1863)
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Napoleon’s March Against Moscow
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The Evolution of
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British Naval Loses
(Illustrated London News, 1915)
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A Pictorial Introduction to Standard Textbook of
Computers (1957) Cosmetology (1967)
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How to Use the Dial Phone (1927)
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How to Fly the P-47 (1943)
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Cooking Terms (1950s)
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Educational Television Programming
Sesame Street The Electric Company
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Influence of the Internet
print-based text internet-based text
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Violence Prevention Seminar (2008)
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Information Design Today
The Association for Educational
Communications and Technology (AECT, 2001)
explains, “Today, the field is fascinated with the
instructional possibilities presented by the
computer as a medium of communication and
as a tool for integrating a variety of media into
a single piece of instruction.”
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Some of the earliest books created around the 6th century, contained only decorative graphics, such as those found in illuminated manuscripts that were created as artifacts of religious service (Mulcahy & Samuels, 1987).
The originating date for the Book of Kells is heavily debated. The best estimate of creation is approximately 800 A.D. The text of the Gospels is largely drawn from the Vulgate (4th century translation of the Bible), although it also includes several passages drawn from the earlier versions of the Bible known as the Vetus Latina.
The Lindisfarne Gospels is an illuminated Latin manuscript of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The illustrations and ornamentation of the Book of Kells surpass that of other Insular Gospel books in extravagance and complexity. The decoration combines traditional Christian iconography with the ornate swirling motifs typical of Insular art. Figures of humans, animals and mythical beasts, together with Celtic knots and interlacing patterns in vibrant colors, enliven the manuscript's pages. Many of these minor decorative elements are imbued with Christian symbolism and so further emphasize the themes of the major illustrations.
The production of secular books began somewhere between the 12th to 15th centuries during the time that the first European universities were established. Prior to the advent of universities, the production of books was virtually limited to religious domains; however, secular universities opened up other areas of study.
Chirurgia magna, the first instructional book on surgery written in 1363 included representational illustrations. Guy de Chauliac, Pope Clement VI's attending physician and the author of Chirurgia magna, wrote the book based on his own field experience.
Gutenberg, in 1452, invented the printing press, using moveable type to layout print pages (Eisenstein, 1980). Books printed at this time incorporated graphics that were more realistic and image-like, less icon-like, and demonstrated a sense of perspective. However, instructional literature took a step backward while, once again, biblical literature moved to the forefront. The printing press made books more available to the general population. People could collect several books on a single subject and compare the information enabling critical thinking and the development of new ideas.
Galileo Galilei’s illustration of Saturn’s rings published in Istoria e Dimostrazioni Intorno Alle Macchie Solar in 1613 is another early example of using representational graphics. Galileo used these drawings to help the readers understand an otherwise abstract and foreign concept.
Education in America in the 1600s and 1700s primarily focused on religion (Mulcahy & Samuels, 1987). Educational assignments consisted of reading and memorizing the Bible, which contained few illustrations, if any, a practice that continued into the 17th and 18th centuries. The few illustrations that were included in educational books during this period were decorative and not used to support learning; however, there was one unique publication that was an exception in its use of graphics, Orbis Sensualium Pictus by Comenius. It was published in 1658 purposefully for the education of children. Comenius’ book included illustrations, 150 copper cuts, and was considered one of the first children’s books to place related text and images together (Mulcahy & Samuels, 1987).
Orbis Sensualium Pictus illustrates Comenius’ emphasis on “the importance of adding pictures to text for the purpose of learning and comprehension” (Schnotz, 2005, p. 50).
Ferguson (1977) explained, “If a word were associated with an object or a picture, Comenius reasoned, it would be more readily learned and better understood” (p. 832).
Throughout the early 19th century, with the development of better printing technology, more illustrations were included in texts not only as decoration, but also to support learning.Wilbur’s Elements of Astronomy published in 1835, used line drawings to describe the movement of the earth, moon, and solar system, a role that illustrations had not fulfilled in previous American publications. Science textbooks such as the Elements of Astronomy purposefully used illustrations to aid the reader in understanding abstract concepts.
Mulcahy and Samuels (1987) explain, “illustrations, reduced to simple line drawings, assumed an explanative function in comparison with the descriptive and narrative functions of the reading text” (p. 33).
First Steps in Geography (1858) by Sarah S. Cornell not only included maps of the world, but also incorporated illustrations to support the learner in understanding geographical concepts.
By the late 19th century the layout of textbooks attained a visual balance between the graphics and the text, and the content became more comprehensible (Mulcahy & Samuels, 1987). For example, Wilson’s Primary Speller, published in 1863, is indicative of Wilson’s belief that images were necessary for teaching reading.
1861. Charles Minard draws Napoleon's march against Moscow. See the information graphic that Edward Tufte calls "probably the best statistical graphic ever drawn. This map portrays the losses suffered by Napoleon's army in the Russian campaign of 1812. Beginning at the Polish-Russian border, the thick band shows the size of the army at each position. The path of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow in the bitterly cold winter is depicted by the dark lower band, which is tied to temperature and time scales.
The second tree, offered by Haeckel in his The Evolution of Man (1879): shows the general evolutionary progress of living things culminating in man, the hopeful and suspected end (or height, or crowning achievement) of the process of evolution.
A year and two weeks after the end of WWI, the Illustrated London News published this compelling graphical display comparing the British naval losses at Jutland to three other great sea battles (Camperdown, the Nile and Trafalgar). The battle near Jutland (Denmark) was the largest naval engagement of WWI, involving the German Navy’s High Seas Fleet and the Royal Navy Grand Fleet, and took place May 31-June 1, 1915 (“The Day”). It was an absolutely enormous engagement, with 250 vessels involved (151 for the Royal Navy, 99 for the German). The end result of the battle was mixed and still debated today; neither side could convincingly claim a conclusive victory from the affair. The Royal Navy losses at Jutland were staggering: 6,094 killed and 570 wounded, with German losses at 2,551 killed and 507 wounded. And while this graphical display places Jutland in a weak context with these other battles, and as pleasing as the thing is visually, the larger mark, the great lurking statistical and human beast lurking there in the mix of silhouettes and data, occurs about halfway down the far right column.
Throughout the 20th century, graphics played an important role in teaching reading and critical thinking skills. Researchers of the 1940s and 1950s, preferred realistic educational illustrations such as photographs; however, by the 1960s, they felt that realistic images were extraneous to the instruction and distracting to the learners (Mulcahy & Samuels, 1987). Visually, graphics moved from predominantly black-and-white, to a mixture of black-and-white and color, to virtually all color by the 1980s.
The changing format of printed illustrations was joined in the 20th century by several technological advances that allowed for a diversification of visual presentations for education. Instructional films were made available in the United States through school museums, what are now know as school media centers. Although the new visual medias were predicted to change the face of instruction in the United States, these massive changes never came to fruition.
During World War II, the use of films and filmstrips to train the US Army Air Force was prolific. Reiser and Dempsey (2007) explain, “it was estimated that there were over four million showings of training films to United States Military personnel” during World War II (p. 19). The ability to successfully train military quickly was cited by the German Chief of General Staff as an advantage that the United States had throughout World War II (Olsen & Bass, 1982).
The 1950s marked the increased interest in television as an instructional medium, although some initiatives of this kind did occur prior to the 1950s. The importance of the interest in educational television interest was prompted by the FCC’s 1952 decision to designate almost 250 channels for the purpose of education, establishing the foundation for public television, a trend that had all but disappeared by the 1960s (Reiser, 2007).
In more recent years, with the advent of the personal computer and easy to use media production software, instructional visuals have proliferated all modes of formal and informal instruction. Instructional media can be designed and developed by nearly any individual with access to a computer, resulting in an inundation of successful and unsuccessful instructional visuals.