• Information Design is the collective visual
language we use to convey any combination
of verbal and non-verbal messages to our
• It can be understood as a combination of
form and function. In this course, we will
explore the history of Information Design
from a functional point of view.
• We will meet in Ryder Room 399 Mondays,
5:15 – 8:45 PM
• See full syllabus, class schedule and
bibliography here: History of Information
Design and Visualization v5
• Every human culture in every time period has
transformed data into visual information.
• The development of Information Design will
be viewed as a continuing conversation
across time between cultural traditions.
• The sheer quantity of data we produce today
is very new, but the qualities of that data are
related to basic human needs.
• The first 10 classes will focus on one
functional theme that has inspired
information design across time and cultures.
• There will be 8 classes devoted to in-class
• In preparation for each class, I will present a
lecture on the theme and distribute a set of
• Students assigned to the functional theme
are encouraged suggest their own examples.
• More details on the In-Class presentation for
next week later in this talk
In-Class Geneology/Lineage Presentation
• For our fifth meeting on October 19 about
Geneology/Lineage, all students will
present their own original information
• Each student will prepare a diagram
representing a genealogy or lineage.
• Choose one or more historical examples to
draw inspiration from.
• You can use your own family or just make
something up. Your approach to this can be
literal, fictional, humorous, ironic, etc.
• Each student will write a research paper that
critically analyzes an information design and
visualization technique drawn from one or
more historical examples.
• Students are welcome to use and/or
combine material from class presentations or
choose new topics.
• Paper length should be between 2,500–3,000
words, and will be due following the last class
on December 7.
• The last two class meetings will be devoted
to short presentations of the research paper
• We will explore, research and discuss
examples of Information Design drawn from
all time periods focused on nine functional
• Cosmology & theological narrative
• Map Mundi / Kingdom / City
• Economic trends
• Scientific explanation
• Mechanical controls
• Business process / Organization chart
Cosmology & theological narrative
Tympanum, Collégiale Saint-Thiébaut de Thann, 15th Century
Navigation chart, Marshall Islands, 19th Century
Map Mundi / Kingdom / City
Map of Integrated Lands and Regions of Historical Countries and Capitals
(Kangnido Map), Yi Hoe and Kwon Kun, 1402
Regnum Animale , Carolus Linnaeus, 1735
Succession of Life, Herbert Bayer, 1955
Extent Population & Revenue of the Principal Nations in Europe in 1804,
William Playfair, 1806
De Viribus - Electricitatis in Motu Musculari, Luigi Galvani, 1792
The lone dashboard instrument in an early Model T Ford, 1920s
Business process / Organization chart
Corporate theory of sustained growth, Disney Studio, 1957
An Information Graphic of the French Empire
Alfred Janniot’s Vision of La plus grande France
• Here is an example of the approach we will
take in the class:
An examination of the stone bas-relief façade
that covers the Palais de Porte Dorée in Paris
• I choose this because it is a remarkable (and
little known) example of information design
related to our first theme: Cosmology &
• Some history
• Some images
• Some analysis
• Some questions
Some History: The Building
• The bas-relief of the Palais de Porte Dorée
was created by Alfred August Janniot for the
Exposition coloniale internationale de 1931.
• This was the only building planned as a
• The Palais de Porte Dorée was designed to be
a museum of the French overseas colonies in
the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and Oceania.
• It became the Musée national des Arts
d’Afrique et d’Océanie in 1960.
• By 1965, the overseas French Empire was
transformed into French Departments
(DOM), Territories (TOM) and independent
• In 2003 the collections were transferred to
the newly created Musée de quai Branly.
• Since 2007 the building has been la Cité
nationale de l’histoire de l’immigration
• The people of these former colonies
became French citizens and significant parts
of the immigrant population in Metropolitan
• This unforeseen historical fate is an
important bond between the viewer today
and this composition set in stone.
Some History: The Façade
• The French sculpture Alfred August Janniot
was given the commission to design and
execute the façade in less than 2 years.
• The composition was modeled in clay in the
studio and then carved on stone blocks that
were mounted on the building’s façade.
• In round numbers it covers a surface of 1,130
square meters – that is more than 40 feet
high and over 300 feet long.
• The style of the sculpture is Art Deco / Art
Moderne, a style that developed in the 1920s
emphasizing fluid lines and symmetry.
• The sculpture represents the people of
the French Empire of the 1930s
producing resources for France.
• The left side represents the Caribbean
• The center represents France
• The right side represents Asia and the
• Each colony is represented
by people in specific dress
and hairstyle, using specific
tools performing specific
• Many plants and animals are
represented in each region.
• The names of important
economic products are
France is represented by
• Symbolic figures alluding to
forms of Greek and Roman
• Powerful animals: horses,
• Sailing ships, steam ships
• There are no European
French people represented
in the composition
• Photographs of the relief are stored in a
Flickr set: Janniot bas-relief
• The set includes individual photos and
composites made by stitching photos
together to represent panels and sections
• All photos are tagged by:
• Panel number (panel1, panel2,…panel23)
• Inscribed Colony/country name
(Guadeloupe, Madagascar, … Tahiti)
• Inscribed Product (riz, coton, bois, … soie)
• The composition is organized by Colonial
• The goal is to illustrate the economic benefit of
the French colonies
• The contents are a catalog of
• Indigenous population
• Natural resources
• Modes of production
• Indigenous architecture
Further materials are linked to this assignment on Blackboard
Please examine these documents and
Read Patricia Morton’s article “National and
Colonial, The Musée des Colonies at the
Colonial Exposition, Paris 1931
Or if you can find it, Morton’s book:
Hybrid Modernities, Architecture and
Representation at the 1931 Colonial
Choose a part of the composition and
consider the following questions for
• What are the people in this part of the
• What are the plants and animals being
• What was the economic value of these
activities and products in the 1930s?
• What is the economic and ecological
significance of these activities, plants and
Theme #1: Cosmology & theological narrative
• Five pairs of students will prepare
presentations for each class: one student will
act as presenter and the other as
• Together they will prepare a combination of
presentation and discussion lasting
approximately 20 minutes, followed by 10
minute of discussion with the entire seminar.
• Over the course of the semester, each
student will have an opportunity to be both
presenter and respondent. Each student will
participate in about 4 presentations.
Theme #1 Team Assignments
Theme #1: Topic Team 1 Assami, Maaria Presenter
Pan, Siyu Respondent
Theme #1: Topic Team 2 Green, Lucy G. Presenter
Richards, Jessie R. Respondent
Theme #1: Topic Team 3 Hoffman, Osnat Presenter
Scarpelli, Lorenzo Respondent
Theme #1: Topic Team 4 Li, Xingyue Presenter
Si, Yike Respondent
Theme #1: Topic Team 5 Morrill, Ryan C. Presenter
Tang, Andrew A. Respondent
Theme #1: Cosmology & theological narrative
Suggested Theme #1 Topics
Romanesque church tympanum, narrative
columns, and murals in France
• Cathédrale Saint-Lazare, Autun
• Collégiale Saint-Thiébaut, Thann
• Abbey Church of Saint Foy, Conques
Greek bas-relief murals and architecture
• Parthenon/Elgin Marbles, British Museum
Mahayana Buddhist bas-relief murals
• Borobudur Temple, narrative panel galleries,
Mayan bas-relief and painted murals
• Temple of Murals, Bonampak, Mexico
• San Bartolo, Guatemala
Tibetan Thanka narrative painting
Theme #1: Cosmology & theological narrative
Pick a topic you will enjoy exploring and
explaining to the group.
Choose from the suggested topics or identify
your own topic appropriate for the theme.
Reference the books and articles listed in the
Syllabus Bibliography, as appropriate.
One person from each team must report the
choice of topic to me by email
Topic Choice Deadline:
end of day Tuesday, 9/15
Class #2, 9/21
Help the seminar understand what you
• What information is presented to the
• How the information is organized
• What technique is used
Surprise and challenge us with your