Fun: Get your own Minard

Dear visualisation enthusiasts, it’s MINARD DAY! Charles-Joseph was born on March 27, 238 years ago today. To celebrate his birthday, let me show you where to get your own Minard.

While I was writing “The Minard System” last year, it was one of my preferred procrastination techniques to search for Minard-related merchandise on the web. It proved to be the perfect distraction: it was all about shopping and browsing websites for interesting finds, but it still felt related to my work, as if I was doing something productive. It was not an overwhelming abundance of Minard merch that I found, but I want to share the few favorite things that I came across.

But let’s do the serious part first: How can you best incorporate some work by Minard to your physical and digital library? First of all, nice high-res images of several of Minard’s maps are available through the David Rumsey Map Collection. The full online presentation of Minard’s oeuvre can be found at the archive of École des ponts et chaussées, but don’t be disappointed: it’s difficult to filter out the pearls from this comprehensive repository.

Charles-Joseph Minard: Carte figurative et approximative des quantités de Coton en laine … (Paris 1862). Via David Rumsey Map Collection

In 2014, the Dutch cartographer Menno-Jan Kraak has published a detailed investigation on Minard’s Napoleon graph. The book not only thoroughly analyses Minard’s masterwork, it goes on to explore more possibilities to graphically incorporate time (and thus storytelling) in a map.

My own book “The Minard System” is an essential companion for all Minard enthusiasts in that it recounts his life and shows his complete oeuvre. For the Napoleon graph was preceded by some 60 brillant statistical maps and diagrams which Minard drew over the course of some 20+ years of visualisation research.

Edward Tufte has praised Minard’s work in his books at length. In his online shop, he also has available a re-created poster reproduction of the Napoleon graph, complete with English commentary and also available in English translation. Please note, however, that compared with the original print (which also contains a second map for comparison), the Tufte version has undergone quite a bit of cleaning.

Complement this with some of the seminal research which Michael Friendly had done on the Minard’s life and work. He also collected a gallery of recent re-designs (or re-visions, as he called them) of the famous Napoleon graph. There’s some good work in there, but also a few really bizarre things. Here’s my favourite:

“Re-Visions of Minard”, a gallery of work assembled by Michael Friendly.

Now comes the fun part: the actual merchandise. You’ve all been fans of some band or other at some point, so you know it’s your duty to buy a t-shirt from your favourite artists. For Minard, Zazzle is the place to go to. Black is always an option, while the white t-shirt is currently out of stock. There’s also the possibility to make your child run the catwalk for you – and don’t panic, it doesn’t need to be pink. There are more colours to choose from.


Ok, so far so good. But it gets even better for the t-shirt enthusiast. Print-on-demand and digital technologies make you the master of your t-shirt. Got a funny comment to make about that graph? Think one graph is not enough? Go for it. Let your creativity run wild with the customizing app.

It’s really funny to see how the Napoleon graph acquired a life of its own, an incomprehensible silhouette isolated from the rest of the graphic. Zazzle has put it on yet another classic of merchandise products: the coffee mug. If you want to show off your knowledge of historical data vis to your colleagues, the mug is here for you—again with the lovely option to go wild in customizing your piece.

If you—as I—think the isolated Napoleon graph doesn’t really make for such a good icon, but still want to show your dedication, has a few other things for you. A t-shirt featuring just the name, a tote bag featuring a lovely variation of the British classic “Keep calm…” or an office wall clock branded “Minard” are worth checking.

Please share photos of Minard merchandise in your environment via Twitter (#completeMinard) or send me a hint if you’ve seen more/other stuff.

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