Scalable geologic timeline II


For the geo-geeks out there, I have finished my geologic timescale brush; now better and more accurate than the previous one.

Download the Illustrator file here

Download .EPS file here

Included is a swatch folder with all the colours as per the instructions of the International Commission on Stratigraphy:

Screen Shot 2014-04-25 at 13.28.21


You are welcome to use this in any way you like, the only thing I wish for is that you let me know/show me the context. You can reach me on twitter; @benteh


Since it is a brush, it can take on any shape, and it can be scaled to be as big as a house.

Screen Shot 2014-04-25 at 11.48.54


Screen Shot 2014-04-25 at 11.53.04

The text needed have to be added manually. It is possible to incorporate it automatically in the brush, but this might not be so sustainable. This is an ongoing project of mine; creating a geologic clock from the formation of the earth to today. When finished, this will have key fossils from each period, maybe a number of millions/billions of years plotted around the clock. Other possibilities is to add ice-ages etc.

Screen Shot 2014-04-25 at 12.18.09

Continue reading


Design and information


Confusion and clutter are the failure of design, not the attributes of information.

– Edward Tufte

Fritz Kahn: the human as industrial palace


(I was horrified to discover that Wikipedia does not have an entry on Fritz Kahn in English. I was utterly unaware of how deep into obscurity this multitalented man had fallen. Update: my pigheaded ability to pester strangers have resulted in an solid entry on Kahn on Wikipedia. Many thanks to Yngvadottir ).

Man_as_machine_high_resFritz Kahn (1888-1968) was one of those annoying renaissance men I cannot help to admire. He was a German science writer, gynaecologist, doctor, surgeon, anthropologist, art director, artist and creator of information visualisation par excellence.

He is by some considered the father of modern data and information visualisation. Though to us some of his illustrations/works of art/scientific insights into the human body might look like  the work of da Vinci on Ritalin, they do convey an amazing amount of information. As well as conceptualising ideas about the world around us and inside us. For this I doff my hat. Further, he was not afraid of controversial subjects. One of his bestselling works of the time was titled Our sex-life. 

His books were burned by the Nazis. He fled Germany, and ultimately ended up in USA.

Thomas Alva Edison believed that inside our heads, there were little people scuttling around controlling our memory. Dr. Kahn had no such notions, he was a different man of a different scientific mind. But by using that metaphor he certainly visualised important concepts. He published a large amount of work, but is maybe most famous for Das Leben des Menschen (The life of humans), a five volume series. Though, as it seems, he has fallen so deeply into obscurity, that “most famous” means almost nothing.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 14.47.09I have for a long time looked longingly at a book containing his work called Fritz Kahn: Man Machine/Maschine Mensch, but at a whooping price of GBP 270-300 (! about USD450) I would at least like to see it before I starve myself, saving up for this. I am happy to report, though, that a much cheaper book is available, simply called Fritz Kahn.

There is a site called Go forth on your own adventure and find out about this remarkable man and his work.

Here is a very small collection of his stunning work.


Visual Italian Wikipedia use


I do not read Italian, but I can certainly appreciate these wonderful multivariate visualisation. Valerio Pellegrini made this gorgeous visual representation of Italian Wikipedia use for 2013.

Months are distributed clockwise with Italian initial for each month. It has three layers of information and data: the inner level; overall top edits, the second it is drilled down to the five pages with most edits, and the outer level simply the most visited.

It is colour coded by categories: cinema, politics, current events, sport, music and culture, miscellaneous, history.

To quote the data artist himself:

What emerges from the Italian version of Wikipedia is a pattern of current events, tv series, famous deaths and –believe it or not: Google Doodles topics.

la_lettura 02 02 2014


January starts at about half past twelve.







I love the fact that The great Gatsby makes the list.







Most visited sorted by category.








60b5845e50b27e2713554e8133a66566 Most edited.











Paper and math: the 3D world

Math can be beautiful. The artist and professor George Heart Makes amazing sculptures, and he generously shares some of the templates so that the less talented of us can reproduce them. Here, I have made a model of his Frabjous in corrugated cardboard:




I am a little partial to the dodocahedron, the 12-faced Platonic solid. The fifth element, the sphere of the cosmos. Drawing overlapping patterns on them are a massive challenge in itself. Sometimes I hide treasures inside, never meant to be opened.




The site Mathcraft have a lot of visual examples on what you can do with mathematics and paper or other ordinary implements. And here you will find patterns for a wild multitude of paper models.


The gorgeous polyhedra sculptures of George Hart


George Hart is a professor in engineering and a freelance mathematical sculptor, designer and artist. With the basis in mathematics he creates stunning sculptures in a variety of materials and sizes, in principle based on basic polyhedra. But his sculptures are anything but basic.

The fact that this shape ….


can turn into this, delights me no end.

Screen shot 2014-03-23 at 13.17.26

This is the incredibly beautiful Frabjous, made in laser-cut aspen. I would love to have the money to get pieces laser-cut, and stick light inside it. It would make for interesting light-shadows, and that in turn would be an interesting still life for pencil drawings. Art is always multilayered.

I have recreated this, in corrugated cardboard, as he generously provides some of the templates on his gallery page. I suspect this is one of the easier ones, but I assure you: cutting out 30 pieces of this shape is far from easy. My fingers hurt for a month. And assembling it was actually tricky, based only on the photographs on his Frabjous page. With corrugated cardboard and paper glue there is a limit to how many times the cock-up fairy can visit, before the ends of the pieces no longer are glueable. I am pretty useless at math, a little better at 3D I can touch; but what saved the project was my visual sense for more or less abstract shape. There will be a post with more of my adventure into polyhedra. In the meantime, you can dip a little into Platonic solids, which are the basis for many of these wonderful sculptures.

Besides, putting my cardboard Frabjous next to his gorgeous aspen one would just be depressing :)

I recreated the template in a vector format and adjusted both ends to be exactly identical. If it is ok with George Hart, I will link to a downloadable vector eps file. I will ask, and we shall see.

I have asked him nicely if he could provide the template for the sculpture The Triangles Which Aren’t There, and with luck I will be able to create one. I have tried a few others, but it seems that my pieces are too small. Corrugated cardboard are too thick for the maximum size I can get from my decimated cardboard boxes.

Here are a few of his sculptures. I would love to try Snarl, Compass points and the Bathysphere, but suspect it is beyond my resources.

All images from George Harts  gallery page.

Massive scale, breathtaking data-driven visualisation at CeBit 2014


I sometimes come across data visualisations that takes my breath away. This is one. Created by the design house Kram/Weisshaar for the CeBit 2014 computer expo in Hannover. Wish I was there.

It is of course the sheer size that makes an impact, but the visualisations themselves are amazing, the amount of data accessed mindblowing, and the integration of visuals and the physical space exemplary. Here is a quote from the designers themselves:

…repository of human culture and activity, able to tackle and articulate the complexity, breadth and depth of the information available within virtual spaces. A 3.000 square meter, floor-to-ceiling terapixel graphic makes manifest the largesse of Big Data, the theme of this year’s CODE_n. The designers imagine systems beyond human perception and use custom code to plot massive amounts of data on spectacular canvases.

Yes, this is real data, from a huge amount of sources. The images almost speaks for themselves, though I wish I could findmore detailed photographs.CLEMENS_WEISSHAAR_REED_KRAM_CODE_N_ARCH_ISO_WEB_2500x1500


“Gigantic scales representing human knowledge from 1088 to 2008. Using Google Book archive of 4 billion pages and hundred of search terms related to politics, economics, engineering, science, technology, math and philosophy. This in sum demonstrates our histories, beliefs, concepts, theories and inventions.”(excerpt from  Kram/Weisshaar pages.)





“Hydrosphere hyperwall shows the global oceans as dynamic pathways. Sea climate, data-collecting mini-robots and ocean creatures; and current systems. Using massive amounts of satellite and on-ocean data interwoven with oceanic big data to describe forces, flow, wind directions.” (excerpt from  Kram/Weisshaar pages.)


“The ultimate complex network, the human brain. Extracted from MRIs, millions of fibre bundles, neural connections and white matter tracts are visualised. Including anomalies such as tissue damage in Alzheimer patients, to the neural basis of morality.”  (excerpt from  Kram/Weisshaar pages.)