As technical analysts we well know that a picture is worth goodness only knows how many words. Charts are just one type of picture though; we have photos, video, fine art and cartoons – a list that to which I’m sure you’ll want to add all sorts of things. But the ones whose use has expanded exponentially in the media this century are what are known as ‘info graphics’. Newspapers use them to illustrate feature articles; a mix of charts, data illustration, and sometimes rather cringe-worthy cutesy icons.
Like so many things, they’re not exactly new. In fact, I recently came across an oldie but goldie: Called The Histomap, with the teaser line, four thousand years of world history, it was originally published in the US by Rand McNally in 1931. A five-foot-long poster created by John B. Sparks it certainly sparked my interest and I think it would be a great visual aid for historians or for use as an educational tool.
It’s got everything to do with trends and the rise and fall of nations, how empires ebb and flow and the repeated tensions between Europe and Asia (Latin America and Australasia don’t really figure). Standing back, it looks like a series of rivers flowing towards modernity where globalisation has reduced the power of any one ethnic group. Fascinating to see which were the very biggest and most powerful groups – Egyptians, Assyrians and Persians, then Romans – with significant though briefer roles for Mongolians and the British. Today’s big four, USA, China, Japan and Germany, barely feature until 1800.
See, perhaps print out, and enjoy!
Seasons Greetings and a Happy New Year to all our readers. Back first week of January.