Manuel Lima: The Book of Trees

The data visualization master's new work gives a history and analysis of leafy diagrams


Data is a powerful tool. Whether it’s used for education, research, policies or everyday decision-making, numbers hold power—and often a simple value doesn’t best convey their meaning. Portuguese-born and NYC-based designer, researcher and author Manuel Lima gives meaning to data through visualization. His innovative and influential book “Visual Complexity” gave some of the first in-depth analyses into increasingly ubiquitous field. Inspired by a trend he saw in his research, Lima’s recently released follow-up “The Book of Trees” hones in the visual use of one of the most primordial forms: trees.


Spanning over 800 years of human use of the tree as a method for data visualization, Lima manages to encompass a wide breadth of topical and geographical uses while maintaining a constant thread throughout. He educates the reader and simultaneously builds a greater curiosity with each example; from Russian Orthodox iconography to musical database mapping. Each chapter elucidates different styles of tree visualizations, many of which the layperson might not recognize without Lima’s sound guidance. On the one hand, designers will find insights on visual communication that transcend every field. For the rest of us, it just might help us make better sense of the quantitative world.

“The Book of Trees” is available from Amazon for $19.

Photos by Hans Aschim