This semester, I have the great pleasure to teach again within the interface design programme of the University of Applied Sciences in Potsdam.

Teaching is awesome: you get to work with talented and bright young people and you continually learn something—from having to research material for the sessions, from having to think things through in order to be able to explain them, but also from discussing visual works with students…

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Isochrone map of Melbourne, showing the travel time to different parts of the city as shaded areas around the city center (ca. 1910-1922, from the State Library Victoria)

My class tackles the history and some theory of information visualisation, and we took off by diving into the vast field of cartography. Here’s an overview of the wealth of material we’re looking at during this course:

  • Early maps (Ptolemaios, Tabula Peuteringiana, Ebstorf World Map, Waldseemueller World Map)
  • Mapping the world (cartographic projections and popular historical atlasses)
  • Mapping data: early thematic cartography (“Longest rivers – highest mountains”, Charles Joseph Minard, John Snow, Charles Booth)
  • Mapping information: cartograms, isochrone maps, subway maps and pictorial maps
  • What is a diagram? (William Playfair, August Crome and Florence Nightingale)
  • Statistical atlasses and interactive statistical maps (US Census Atlas of 1874, Rand McNally Indexed World Atlas of 1897 // Better Life Index of 2010, WHO “Death on the Roads” of 2015 and Berlin Noise Map of 2015)
  • Tree diagrams: genealogy, knowledge and the evolution of man (Early dynastical trees, trees of knowledge, evolution theory and tree diagrams)
  • Time lines: picturing time (Joseph Priestley, Adam’s Synchronological Chart of Universal History of 1881, Marey’s train schedule of 1885, John Bertram Spark’s Histomap of 1932, USGS Geological Time Spiral of 1975 and the International Chronostratigraphic Chart)
  • Anatomy: mapping the body (Anatomy of Mansur of 1400, Andreas Vesalius of 1543, Rand McNally Atlas of the Body and Mind of 1976 and Brain scans from the Human Connectome Project of 2013)
  • Theory of information visualisation (Étienne-Jules Marey, Willard Cope Brinton, Jacques Bertin and Edward Tufte)
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Double spread from Rand McNally’s Indexed Atlas of the World from 1897 (via David Rumsey)

Update 2017: our seminar blog, which we used as a tool for collecting, presenting and sharing material, is now offline. Thanks everyone in the course who has contributed to the discussions during our sessions and for contributing research to the blog.