Data visualization through the centuries – a visual analysis of milestones

Excerpt from research article

Data Science

This research explores milestones of data visualizations through history, based on their level of „visual complexity“. The goal was to disover possible reasons which contribute to the dissemination and acceptance of visualizations.

Cluster analysis of visual milestones

The analysis of 168 charts and diagrams uncovers several groups, which share certain characteristics.

• Cluster 0: Charts with visual context: pictograms and icons
• Cluster 1: Network and tree graphs with low visual complexity
• Cluster 2: Graphs with medium visual complexity
• Cluster 3: Modern graphs with highest visual complexity
• Cluster 4: Maps and charts with medium visual complexity
• Cluster 5: Tables with ordering function


Data visualizations have not been widely adopted due to challenges such as high reproduction costs, limited color choices, duplication limitations, and distrust caused by ambiguity. To gain acceptance, visual and social conventions needed to develop, which required a change in culture, society, and everyday life.

Further details

The cluster analysis based on the type of data visualization.

The dendrogram of the analysis showing the similarity of the different charts and diagrams.