Collage: Visual Complexity

Although there are important distinctions between the physical processes of the brain and the processing of information within the brain, one key similarity is the role of networks. Even as researchers, designers, and technologists advance our capacity for the conscious understanding of big data, we should remember that we are basically attempting to bring forth into the world that which is already within us. Cognition itself is a function of the interactions of highly complex networks in the brain, involving not only the collection of huge amounts of information but the dynamic representation and interpretation of that information. As an exercise in self-reflection, network visualization informs our understanding of complex systems, including our own capacity to understand information.

Manuel Lima’s site explores network visualization on multiple levels, helping us to recognize both the patterns and the patterns within the patterns. intends to be a unified resource space for anyone interested in the visualization of complex networks. The project’s main goal is to leverage a critical understanding of different visualization methods, across a series of disciplines, as diverse as Biology, Social Networks or the World Wide Web. I truly hope this space can inspire, motivate and enlighten any person doing research on this field.

visual complexity
Visual Complexity website | Manuel Lima

Visual Complexity

In this video, posted around 2010, the founder of talks about the ideas and inspirations behind the creation of the site.

Really meaningful data is not a given fact nowadays. It’s really critical that we start making sense of the huge amounts of data that we have and we’re dealing with on a daily basis, and convert that into various sort of meaningful information and knowledge…

I think the biggest challenge of the project is really trying to find the common thread among the projects, trying to find sort of like the syntax of a new language. I really believe this is becoming sort of a new language that hopefully the site will help in understanding the commonalities among all these different projects. So if we can start understanding this new syntax of this language we can maybe work in better solutions for the future.

Visual Complexity | Manuel Lima 10 Years / 1,000 Projects

In a post on Medium in October 2015, Manuel wrote about the evolution of the site and the field of data visualization over the ten previous years. Although the site itself will not be updated in the future, it is clear that spirit of the work will continue and take on new forms.

Apart from browsing projects by subject, users can also scan by year and top authors (a ranking system of all artists, scientists, researchers, designers), but the two most interesting filters in VC have been the trend and method. The trend filter — a way of looking at projects based on the topical trend (a mix between platforms and niche sub-genres), e.g.,, Wikipedia, Twitter, Terrorism, Blogosphere — became the main corpus of Chapter 04 of Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information, entitled “Infinite Interconnectedness”, while the method filter (arguably the most innovative one) gave users a way of reviewing projects based on their visual model and ended up becoming the core of the book’s Chapter 05, “The Syntax of a New Language” (see below).

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Reference 10 Years / 1,000 Projects | Manuel Lima