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Inspiration from Info We Trust #030

🐢 Perhaps you have seen this information graphic.
A number line serves is the stage for a series of pictorial marks. Each silhouette represents an animal species lifespan. The number line turns back and forth to fit the page. It compresses to include the 150 year lifespan of the giant tortoise. It is a simple graphic. It is also an icon - still printed today on mugs and posters. Have you ever wondered where it came from?
Otto Neurath, of Isotype fame, partnered with Comptons to supply dozens of pictograph charts to Comptons 1939 Pictured Encyclopedia. At this time Neurath was still operating under the banner ofThe International Foundation for Visual Education in the The Hague.

Comptons advertised the inclusion of Neurath's charts as the "Greatest step in visual education since invention of photography." Spread across all 15 volumes of the encyclopedia, Neurath and team's charts and diagrams complement a beautiful variety of photos, illustrations, diagrams, maps, and more.

All of the published listings point to Comptons 1939 as holding the famous above graphic. You can even see the evidence yourself in the graphic's lower right corner. However, How Long Do Animals Live? is not in 1939.

1939's Volume A indeed has a full page devoted to animal lifespans. But it looks very very different from what we know:
Seeing the 1939 graphic on this theme is very strange. Its three annotated dioramas cram animals which do not belong together into the same scene.  Start reading those annotations and you start to wonder where they got their maximum lifespan data. A 150 year-old swan? Impossible.

It is not clear who prepared the original graphic. What we know is that it did not last long while Neurath was involved. We can see it replaced, in the same exact volume on the same exact page, with a new visual approach and new lifespan data:
A complete 1939 set stands watch over a 1943 Volume A.

Neurath's timeless design makes it as fresh today as it must have appeared to its intended audience: midcentury children. It is nice seeing it in its original presentation.

But what is really wonderful is understanding where it came from. Designs that become icons usually lose their context. When we hoist them on a pedestal we forget that they were not forged out of thin air. They actually sit on top of mounds of prior work.

The old 1939 version is a very average illustration that does not deserve special attention. But it is a critical ingredient to a beautiful story. Without it we could we have ever gotten How Long Do Animals Live??
Cross-sections through California is officially funded. Thank you for your support and enthusiasm. We are going to print the map!

This is my first kickstarter. After one week I am most surprised by the high average donor amount (over $40). You have been very generous with your encouragement, sharing, and backing. Thank you.

There is still time to participate (and share) the campaign. Believe me that you want to hold this map in real life!:
Kickstarter Map

Onward! -RJ
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