Posted by on November 15, 2012
Posted in: DataViz, graphic design, projects

A timeline is a humble but powerful way of organizing information and representing data. Timelines can range from straightforward sequences of events to animated chronological narratives to rich interactive diagrams that express large quantities of data. Because everyone understands the consecutive nature of time, timelines are very accessible infographics. They have an illustrious history, dating back to at least the 2nd century AD, according to Cabinet Magazine.

Here are a few examples of the many forms timelines can take. Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

  • 1 A graphic attempt to chart the chronology and interconnectedness of popular music. Genres in red float in the rising tide of artists.
  • 2 An interactive timeline that shows the origins and aftermath of the 2008 Financial Crisis (click on source link #2 above).
  • 3 A straightforward but charming timeline highlighting key events in the history of Legos.
  • 4 Who says time has to be represented as a straight line? Millions of years are shown here as a spiral getting larger as it approaches the present era.
  • 5 Timelines characterize the past with the benefit of hindsight. As such they can have the nostalgic appeal of making sense of history. Here is the classic Minard timeline representing Napoleon’s 1812 march to Russia.

And here are a couple of timelines that we’ve made at Fat Pencil Studio.

  • This timeline shows when an employee worked under different supervisors, which days she didn’t work, and when notable events occurred. The horizontal array of months allows us to see several months of daily information in a compact format. See project.
  • This interactive timeline allows viewers to select a given date and see corresponding mental health records. The chart presents an extensive amount of information while also showing the frequency and variety of medical events. The different colors indicate different health care providers. See project.
  • This is a still from an animated timeline for a Train Injury Case that placed key events not only in time, but also geographically.
  • This timeline plots reported roof leak events with precipitation data and maintenance interventions (click here for enlarged version).



About Ady

Adrienne Leverette is lead illustrator at Fat Pencil Studio. Read more