REVIEW: Atlas of the Invisible

It’s been about 450 years since Theatrum Orbis Terrarum was published by Dutch cartographers in 1570 as an attempt to collect the entirety of knowledge in a single book. Its title translates as the “Theatre of the Orb of the World”, and this framing is helpful in considering the new book Atlas of the Invisible by James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti.

While atlases normally consist of a collection of maps, the Atlas of the Invisible is a collection of geospatial data stories explained as much as visualized. The fantastically designed maps and charts are collected into three sections: who we are, how we’re doing, and what we face. The subjects largely show longitudinal evolution on subjects like urbanicity, connectivity, and issues of social justice with a solid pivot towards climate change about halfway through.

The tone of the book is smart, friendly, and reads more like an overall story than I had expected, and as such, it grasps at the massive societal changes happening around us. The attention to detail by the authors is impressive, not only in the design of the clever and attractive visualizations, but also in their depth of research on diverse subjects. The resulting package is really a must-have for your bookshelf and future inspiration, as the passion of the authors magically make the invisible visible and create a pathway towards creating a better future.

Jason Forrest is a data visualization designer and writer living in New York City. He is the director of the Data Visualization Lab for McKinsey and Company. In addition to being on the board of directors of the Data Visualization Society, he is also the editor-in-chief of Nightingale: The Journal of the Data Visualization Society. He writes about the intersection of culture and information design and is currently working on a book about pictorial statistics.

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