There has been a resurgence of interest in data visualizations inspired by Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures album cover. These so-called “Joy Plots” are easier to create thanks to the development of the “ggjoy” R package and also some nice code posted using D3. I produced a global population map (details here) using a similar technique in 2013 and since then I’ve been on a quest to find some earlier examples. This is because a number of people have said it reminds them of maps created by Harvard’s digital mapping pioneers in the 1970s and I got the feeling I was coming late to the party…
The pulsar style plots are already well covered by Jen Christiansen who wrote an excellent blog post about the Joy Division album cover, which includes many examples in a range of scientific publications and also features this interview with the designer Peter Saville.
Most interestingly, Jen’s post also includes the glimpse of the kind of map (top left) that I’d heard about but have been unable to get my hands on shown in the book Graphis Diagrams: The Graphic Visualization of Abstract Data.
My luck changed this week thanks to a kind email from John Hessler (Specialist in Mathematical Cartography and GIS at the Library of Congress) alerting me to the huge archive of work they have associated with GIS pioneer Roger Tomlinson (who’s PhD thesis I feature here). I enquired if he knew anything about the population lines maps to which he causally replied “we have hundreds of those” and that he’d already been blogging extensively on the early GIS/ spatial analysis pioneers (I’ve