Comparing the Incomparable

Often we are faced with the task of explaining or describing something that requires the audience to hold complex information in their minds while still taking in new information. Think of state-of-the-union speeches or learning about a scientific, systemic or technologic concept. Most us are at heart visual people. Photos and illustrations deliver a bounty of information, emotional and intellectual content. Sometimes information is not particularly exciting in of of itself, like travel data or web user metrics, but when combined with creative and thoughtful design that data can take on whole new significance and can serve to advance the story you are telling.

A Comparative View of the Principal Waterfalls, Islands, Lakes, Rivers and Mountains in the Western Hemisphere.

The image shown here is an example of information that, at the time in the 1800’s, a person could not in any way visualize themselves. Even the most travelled citizen could not with any semblance of self-respect profess to be able to picture the comparative sizes of the world’s greatest waterfalls AND rivers AND lakes AND mountains. This image must have been a revelation and wonder to those who saw it back then. I have that same feeling when I see some of today’s best examples of data visualization that allow me to see the unseeable.

Click here to see a gallery of great images from the 1800s.

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