A Taxonomy of Circles
Honored to have one of my map collages selected as part Manuel Lima’s new research / publication!
Available May 2. Pre-order your copy!
Manuel Lima is the founder of VisualComplexity.com, Design Lead at Google, and a regular teacher of data visualization at Parsons School of Design as well as a frequent speaker at universities and events worldwide.
In this follow-up to his hugely popular The Book of Trees and Visual Complexity, Manuel Lima takes us on a lively tour through millennia of circular information design. Three hundred detailed and colorful illustrations from around the world cover an encyclopedic array of subjects–architecture, urban planning, fine art, design, fashion, technology, religion, cartography, biology, astronomy, and physics, all based on the circle, the universal symbol of unity, perfection, movement, and infinity.
The Book of Circles juxtaposes clay trading tokens used by the ancient Sumerians with the iconic logos of twentieth-century corporations, a chart organizing seven hundred Nintendo offerings with a Victorian board game based on the travels of Nellie Bly, and a visual analysis of Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining with early celestial charts that placed the earth at the center of the universe, among a wealth of other elegant and intriguing methods for displaying information.
Lima provides an authoritative history of the circle as well as a unique taxonomy of twenty-one varieties of circle diagrams, rounding out this visual feast for infographics enthusiasts.
Maps of Sorrow
Circles for the most part have been usurped within western culture by the efficiency and rigidity of the rectangle. Our lives are constructed around the geometry and architecture of the right angle. Historically the circle has been equated with the feminine, the sacred, unity, the cosmic flow of spiritual life. When you look at someone, you will first see the circle of their eyes. Perhaps, more importantly, circles often connote infinity, immortality, perfection, completion, and the inclusivity of nature. Consider the male/female, Yin-Yang symbol, or the Native American symbolic expression of unity the Medicine Wheel. Jung saw the circle representative of the psyche, the square represents the archetype of the body. Squares and rectangles however, connote more masculine ideas comprising containment, dependable, conformity, stability, stasis, solidity, firmness and permanence. The work selected was an exploration or exercise on mapping/visualizing personal emotional experience. I began playing around with how the circle or patterns within my own life could be analyzed visually. Like the face of a clock, or the passage of time, the overlapping of similar patterns were densely layered to represent a continuum. An “I have been hear before” sort of feeling? Most of what I was recognizing was a repetition of my own patterns of thought – which then would alter my mood, the the loop would be set in motion. This sort of self awareness exercise, intuitively called for a circular design. I did not really set out to consciously record, but allowed my unconscious thoughts to guide the mapping, through multiple, random overlapping of the printed acetate. The mapping exercise becomes analogous to a clock, a star, or a book and the passage of time. Full circle – even if that circle is fractured, blurred or abstracted.
You can catch Manuel and hear him speak at the upcoming EYEO Festival.