PORTFOLIO / INTERACTIVE & DESIGN / The flow of figures

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The flow of figures: Grant's Atlas of Anatomy Click to launch visualization
Adobe Flash CS4
General public (Canadian)
Interactive web tool (960x650 pixels)
Prof. N. Woolridge1, Prof. J. Jenkinson1, special thanks to B. Sutherland1
Grant's Atlas of Anatomy is used worldwide by students and is currently in its twelfth edition. The first edition of the atlas, An Atlas of Anatomy, was written by Dr. JCB Grant and published in 1943. The atlas featured figures drawn by a team of female medical illustrators at the University of Toronto. A team of professors from the Biomedical Communications (University of Toronto) program and Concordia University are working to create a digital archive of the original illustration plates. One key aspect that has not yet been documented is where each illustration can be found in all twelve editions. As a starting point, I collected data on the positions of each figure in the upper limb chapter from the first to fifth editions. Using this data, I created an interactive tool for the web that provides a visual representation of where each illustration is located in the first five editions of the atlas.
The primary goals of this project are to 1) contribute to the archival process by tracking the locations of illustrations across editions, 2) place the illustrations and metadata in the larger context of other figures and editions to allow for comparison, and in doing so 3) reveal patterns in the structural organization of the atlas, and changes in artists and illustration methods used. By plotting the changes in chapter structure and composition visually, I hope to offer a glimpse into the logic and thought process behind the atlas as the editors sought to improve the educative value and usefulness of this publication. The tool will also help the archival team determine which illustration plates are missing from the collection/database.
This project will be expanded upon in collaboration with the Grant's Atlas of Anatomy archive team.
1Biomedical Communications, University of Toronto


This project was greatly inspired by Ben Fry's On The Origin of Species. I wanted to create something similar for a publication related to biomedical communications that I would have access to. By going through old volumes of Grant's Atlas of Anatomy, I collected data on the movement of figures in the first chapter across five editions by logging the position of each figure with a unique identifier. I then sketched out my ideas - I knew the large number of figures would pose a challenge and worked on creating a design that minimizes visual clutter and highlights the patterns. I designed the visuals in Illustrator before importing the elements into Flash.


I did a few quick tests in Flash to check the functionality before bringing in the elements from Illustrator. (Hover and click on the bars.)