Book of Circles: Visualizing Spheres of Knowledge

Book of Circles: Visualizing Spheres of Knowledge by Manuel Lima

“Circles are truly everywhere. We can witness this elemental shape in faraway planets and stars; in earth formations such as mounds, craters, and small lakes; in the sections of tree trunks and plant stems; in the moving ripples on the surface of water; in a variety of leaves, fruits, shells, rocks, and pebbles; in the eyes of our fellow humans and other animals…”

BY BEA MARTIN

 

In The Book of Circles, his companion volume to the popular Book of Trees, Manuel Lima takes us on a lively tour through millenia of information design. Three hundred detailed and colourful illustrations cover an encyclopedic array of subjects, drawing fascinating parallels across time and culture. The clay tokens used by ancient Sumerians as a system of recording trade are juxtaposed with the logos of modern retailers like Target; Venn diagrams are discussed side by side with symbols of the Christian trinity, the trefoil shape of the biohazard symbol, and the Olympic rings; a diagram revealing the characteristics of 10,000 porn stars displays structural similarities to early celestial charts placing the earth at the centre of the universe.

A set of projects from the first of twenty-one visual archetypes featured in the book. The diversity is evident. Juxtaposed here are an art project created inside a petri dish, an illustration of the geocentric model, an image of Jupiter’s north pole, and a map of 10,000 porn stars. The projects span more than 500 years, from the 15th century to 2013.

Circles are truly everywhere. We can witness this elemental shape in faraway planets and stars; in earth formations such as mounds, craters, and small lakes; in the sections of tree trunks and plant stems; in the moving ripples on the surface of water; in a variety of leaves, fruits, shells, rocks, and pebbles; in the eyes of our fellow humans and other animals; as well as in cells, bacteria, and microscopic organisms.

Pages from the section A Taxonomy of Circles which expands on the classification of the various visual archetypes featured in the book.

Over time, the circularity exhibited in nature also became a chief guiding principle of human culture, emulated and reinvented in art, religion, language, technology, architecture, philosophy, and science. Used to represent a wide range of ideas and phenomena pertaining to almost every domain of knowledge, the circle became a universal metaphor embraced by virtually every civilization that has ever existed. We can see them as an organizing model in the cities and buildings we inhabit, the objects and tools we use, and the symbols and diagrams we construe to make sense of the world around us.

About the Author

Manuel Lima FRSA is a Portuguese-born designer, author, lecturer, and researcher. WIRED describes Lima as “the man who turns data into art” while Creativity magazine considers Lima “the Edward Tufte of the 21st Century”.

 


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Paperback | Approx. £20 UK | ISBN 10: 1616895284 | 272 pp. | Princeton Architectural Press | 2 May 2017