Statistically Speaking: The Graphic Expression of Data
The word “statistics” generally conjures up an image of columns of numbers that hold interest only for the expert or enthusiast. In the early twentieth century, however, states and political movements recognized that if statistics were presented in a visually compelling way, they could become powerful tools of mass persuasion. This exhibition highlights eye-catching statistical graphics from the first half of the twentieth century in The Wolfsonian’s rare book and special collections library. The items on display were vehicles for the ambitions of Portuguese imperialists, Soviet propagandists, and American New Dealers. Each of these groups deployed graphic design as a means of making quantitative information vivid, understandable, and endowed with meaning beyond the numbers themselves.