Milestone – Timeline

Introduction to topic and question.

Since the dawn of time or as far back as man can remember information has been stored or archived in societies for future possible interpretations later. In recent times records of these documented information have been studied and in some cases plotted in graphs and charts. The introductory project in this Lab was centered around creating a timeline of some order that reflects the adoption and evolution of data in “Milestones in the History of Thematic Cartography, Statistical graphics and Data visualization”. The information in the Timeline was sourced from “An illustrated chronology of innovations by Michael Friendly and Daniel J. Denis


Materials including software and datasets used in lab.

For this project Google sheets and a platform called Knight Lab created by Northwestern University were used. The information data set was retrieved from the “Milestone” Timeline. Different research and studies visualizations by  professionals were created and categorized by year on the Milestones webpage. This was the dataset used to get the information to populate the google sheets by feeding Links from the Milestone webpage. The google sheet affords for all kinds of information to be entered into the spreadsheet, which  then went on to inform the page that is created via KnightLab. Information like the date, headline of the image and content for the image were all placed into rows and columns in google sheet. Once the information was complete, the google sheet link was copied and pasted into the KnightLab platform, where it created a timeline interface on the site or gave an option to open the new timeline interface in a completely new tab.

Methods used to create visualization.

For this project the visualizations were already created by various professionals over time, the earliest being from 1974 all the way to 2009. The idea for the project was to give a wide range of various graphs though the timelines spectrum. Different professionals used different types of graphs to plot and reveal information they felt would best express the information they had made studies on. The timeline attests to the important role information int the form has played an important role across time of informing and educating societies. The methods used by these professionals not only reflect different types of graphs but different levels of complexities of the graphs and an over view of why certain methods worked better in revealing information than others. Types of graphs included in the timeline include Scatter plots, Bivariate Matrix, Interactive statistical graphical Systemised, Interactive Statistical graphs for multiple time series, Parallel coordinate plots  and Sparklines, Moving Bubble Chart.

Results/discussions, including images of embedded visualizations.

These graphs and plots help reveal the styles and various uses of graphs over the years. Overtime, these graphs have been used to help inform countries, governments, cities and organizations on key insights on data with large numbers or helped reveal trends based on fluctuations or gravitations to points and nodes plotted on the graph. In recent years data visualizations have grown to have the ability to reflect information in vary impressive and elaborate ways, however fancy graphs are not the goal of visualizations but clear, insightful and easy to understand graphs, in other words accessible in a non distracting way. Below are a few of the graphs from the Milestone project:


Scatter plots – In this graph we see the graph used for draft lottery with median and quartile traces. Enhancement of scatterplot with plots of three moving statistics (mid mean and lower and upper semi mid mean)

Bivariate Matrix – In this graph we see how color-coded bivariate matrix to represent two intervally measured variables in a single map

Interactive statistical graphical Systemised – Interactive statistical graphics, systematized: allowing brushing, linking, other forms of interaction

Interactive Statistical graphs for multiple time series – Interactive graphics for multiple time series with direct manipulation (zoom, rescale, overlaying, etc.)

Parallel coordinate plots – Statistical theory and methods for parallel coordinates plots

Sparklines – Sparklines: “data-intense, design-simple, word-sized graphics,” designed to show graphic information inline with text and tables

Moving Bubble Chart – Also we see how important information on health issues can be reflected, like in this case  the number of people with HIV.

Discussion of future directions.

It is clear to see different graphs help convey information to best understand different kinds of data sets. Moving forward it will be important to take a step back and reflect on the information needing to be communicated and the best kind of graph to help represent this.  It will be interesting to see how I will curate data for this course and how it will be used to create visualizations for different topics. Professional fields like Health, Fintech and agriculture to name a few all seek data in a visuzlized way. The challenge will be to have the projects stay true to the fundamentals of visualizations like the best actual programs to create graphs in like programs like Tableau, Gephi or R and a few others. Also, appropriate graph styles that best reflects information in an understandable way and color choices will need to be taken into consideration.  

Plotting graphs is an efficient way of representing information, however it is important that a graph first of all is the right medium to represent the information. Also that the data that is being retrieved can actually be manipulated to give informative results. This also points out why having a broad understanding of best practices is encouraged before one endeavors to plot data. Also learning these best practices early in the process will be wise to prevent adopting poor practices that develop into habits that will need to be broken is imperative. There are numerous fields or topics that data and graphs visualization can be used in, the question is more what topics can visualization not be used in. With the increase of data in our society from digital platforms and digital products , it will interesting learning to plot  visualizations to the data sets and what findings can be made from this.

The link to my Milestone -Timeline can be found on the Northwestern University KnightLab website: