Summer 2021

Data storytelling in late Victorian London

Charles Booth’s London Poverty Maps

Thames & Hudson, 2019 Text by Mary S. Morgan, Iain Sinclair and others. Hardback, £49.99. Design by Daniel Streat / Visual Fields.

The design community is currently fascinated by data storytelling. Everyone wants to design visual tales with story arcs that lead to data-driven conclusions. Anyone trying to accomplish this can learn a great deal from studying the 1889 London Poverty Maps created by Victorian social reformer Charles Booth. In his time, his colourful maps showed an astonished public how economic resources were distributed, where overcrowded housing was concentrated, and how wealth and poverty lived side by side among London’s population …

Cover and spread (top) from Charles Booth’s London Poverty Maps. Booth’s colourful maps show the wealthy red buildings along broad avenues, contrasting sharply with blue and black poverty in streets and alleyways. He added pie charts to visualise the statistical ratios he compiled to characterise each district.


Paul Kahn, information designer and lecturer at Northerneastern University, Boston

Read the full version in Eye no. 101 vol. 26, 2021


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