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Sandra Rendgen at Malofiej 23

Charles Minard's groundbreaking work in cartography and data visualization

March 22, 2015

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The final keynote of the first day of the 23rd Malofiej Infographic Summit belonged to Sandra Rendgen, an author and editor with a particular focus on infographics, interactive media and the history of information visualization. In collaboration with Taschen Publishing, she released ‘Information Graphics’ (2012) and ‘Understanding the World’ (2014).

With an academical background in art history and cultural theory, her work both as an editor and in developing concepts for media installations concentrates at the interface between image culture and technology, with a particular focus on data visualization, interactive media and the history of how information is conveyed.

And Sandra’s keynote was precisely focused on her historical research, more precisely on one of the key persons in data visualization history, Charles Joseph Minard, who made his first graphic in 1844, at age 63.

Now, everyone’s pretty much familiar with Minard’s most famous work, the map of Napoleon’s disastrous Russian campaign of 1812. This notable piece represents in two dimensions six types of data: the number of Napoleon’s troops, distance, temperature, the latitude and longitude, direction of travel, and location relative to specific dates.

Charles Minard’s most famous visualization

But Sandra’s talk offered a much broader overview of Minard’s body of work. Titled “A Cartography of Flux — The Fifty Maps of Minard”, it featured other examples of Minard’s use of a technique later popularized by Matthew Sankey, and experiments integrating different types of charts with cartography.

Carte figurative et approximative des poids des bestiaux venus à Paris sur les chemins de fer (1862) | Charles Minard

As Sandra pointed out, Minard’s base maps weren’t very accurate, by design, but his main focus was communicating a message supported by a strong statistical overlay. The most amazing thing in these experiments is that they were made almost without references, apart of some of William Playfair‘ groundbreaking work.

Examples of Charles Minard’s work in visualization

As for upcoming projects, Sandra shared with the Malofiej audience that she’s looking forward to publish a book with Minard’s maps. Until then, you can find out more about this body of work over at prof. Michael Friendly’s website.

Connect with Sandra on Twitter (@srendgen) and Tumblr, and visit her website for more of her work.

That’s it for the coverage of the first day of Malofiej. Soon we’ll be publishing our overview of the second day of presentations, as well as the awarded infographics in this year’s awards. .

Written by Tiago Veloso

Tiago Veloso is the founder and editor of Visualoop and Visualoop Brasil . He is Portuguese, currently based in Bonito, Brazil.

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