Book: The information design handbook

Visocky O’Grady, J. (2008) The information design handbook. UK: Rotovision.

Innovation: cave paintings and petroglyphs – P28

  • Cave paintings and Petroglyphs images were used as a means of communication 80,000 years before early writing first appeared in Mesopotamia (circa 3000 BCE)
  • Prehistoric markings can be found in the forms of cave paintings, cliff drawings and petroglyph represent the first known attempt at visual representation of informaiton
  • Lescaux and Chauvet (both caves) in France, world’s oldest cave paintings believed to be over 30,000 years old
  • Empirist theory: motivated by a need to record important events
  • Trance theory: shamans in effort to contact spirits, control lives of animals, change weather and heal the sick (more about David Lewis William’s trance theory, read – The mind in the cave: consciousness and origins of art (Thames & Hudson, 2004))


Innovation: pictographic writing – P29

  • Sumerian pictographic writing systems was imprinted on clay tokens used for commerce
  • Later clay tablets were used to keep records of agricultural and trade goods


Innovation: early cartography – P30

  • Cartography – the art and scenece of creating maps
  • One of the earliest cartographic documents is inscribed into clay in Sumer circa 1300 BCE, is the Town Plan of Nippur:
  • Maps became more complexm in 150 CE Ptolemy wrote the Geographia, a document that contained detailed accounts of the world’s geography in the second century
  • Romans created accurate maps of newly conqurerd lands to manage the construction of roads
  • Renaissance cartographers created highly detailed charts depicting coastlines, ports and geographic hazards and wing direction
  • In modern day we use satellite imagery which is available to any internet use


Innovation: charts and graphs – P31

  • William Playfair was a Scottish engineer and political economist who believed that the visualisation of data was, in some cases easer to understand than the written wor.
  • Playfair wrote to books, The Commerical and Political Atlas in 1786 and The Statistical Breviary in 1801
  • Playfair wanted his audience to be able to visualise the connections between economical factors
  • The father of almost all modern charts and graphs – he bridged significant knowlege gaps and specialised skills were no longer needed to interpret complex data


Innovation: ISOTYPE – P34

  • ISOTYPE was created by Austrian sociologist and political economist Otto Neurath in 1940, with the help of German artist Gerd Arntz
  • Goal was to educate a broad audience by presenting complex data via easily understood symbols
  • “Words make division, pictures make connections”
  • Developed a set of rules to ensure ISOTYPE’s consistent application – governed the use of colour, orientation, the addition of text and more


Innovation: Guides for structuring information – P38

  • Czech modernist Ladislav Sutnar is considered to be one of the great pioneers of information design
  • Sutnar’s work was dominated by strict, functional typogrphic grids, sans serif typefaces, white spaces and whimsical uses of colour and form
  • Would design in spreads rather than single pages (the dominant format of the period)
  • Use of parentheses, brackets, small images and icons to reinforce hierachical structures of content, these visual indexes allowed for rapid scanning of the page and enabled the reader to find information quickly

Innovation: The interactive exhibit – P40

  • Charles and Ray Earnes (most remembered for their contribution to furniture design and film) were well ahead of their time in many creative efforts including information and exhibition design
  • Central to their theme was the notion that math could be fun


Innovation: The pioneer plaque – P44

  • Launched on March 2, 1972 by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the United States, Pioneer 10 ws the first man- made artifact to travel beyond the boundaries of our solar system and into interstellar space
  • The last contact with Pioneer 10 was made in January 2003 where the craft was 10 billion miles away from Earth
  • Attached to the exterior of the spacecraft is a 6 x 9 inch (15 x 23cm) gold annodised aluminium plate
  • Designed by Frank Drake and Carl Sagan (artwork by Linda Salzman Sagan)

Innovation: The visual language workshop – P46

  • Muriel Cooper (acclaimed as one of the most influential designers of the 20th century) with her work with the Visible Language Worksop
  • at MIT (Massachusetts Institure of Technology) have helped frame our contemporary digital experience
  • Designers, programmers, and computer scientists would come together in a spirit of exploration and experimentation
  • In 1978 became one of the founding members of its Media Lab

Innovation: The first website – P50

  • The internet as we know it today was developed in 1989 by Tim Berners- Lee, a physsicist working at CERN
  • The first address on the web was, a page explaining the technology behind the web, how to build a website and how to undertake an effective search

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