Information Graphics: Charles Minard

Napoloeon’s invasion of Russia of 1812  was a turning point in the Napoleonic Wars, as it had the effect of reducing the Grande Armée to a tiny fraction of it’s original strength.

This was not only an event of epic proportions it was also of momentous importance for European history, since it triggered a major shift in the balance of power in European politics, and signalled the end of French dominance in continental Europe.

This important historic event became the subject for many European painters who vividly contrasted the arrogance and hubris of the original invasion with the humiliation and the human suffering of the retreat from Moscow.

However, it was a French man, Charles Minard, in 1869, who had pioneeed the use of information graphics in engineering and statistics, who, decided to tell what had become a familiar story to most Europeans, in an a revolutionary new fashion.

His “Carte Figurative des Pertes Successives en Hommes de l’Armée Française dans la Campagne de Russie 1812-1813”, is a flow map which portrays the losses suffered by Napoleon’s army in the Russian campaign of 1812. Beginning at the Polish-Russian border, the thick band shows the size of the army at each position. The path of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow in the bitterly cold winter is depicted by the dark lower band, which is tied to temperature and time scales.

This statistical graphic displays several variables in a single two-dimensional image. As it  shows:

1) The Grande Armée’s location and direction, showing where particular units split off and rejoined
2) The declining size of the Grande Armée’s as it retreated back to France
3) The falling temperatures during the retreat.
Edward Tufte in his masterpiece “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information” describes Charles Minard’s map as perhaps ” the best statistical graphic ever drawn”.

But it’s power is not just as piece of information graphics. Because although it might appear at first sight a colder, less emotional, less romantic depiction of the campaign, than the work of say Adolph Northen or Illarion Pryanishnikov it is, on closer inspection a far more chilling, and far more devastating depiction of the scale of the human folly and suffering.

By Mike Garner

A highly experienced creative practitioner, Mike Garner is also a strong creative leader with a deep understanding of the effective use of creativity in all aspects of communication.

With widely recognised creative abilities, combined with a practical understanding of commercial requirements, Mike has an exceptional track record in helping start up and grow a number of highly successful creative businesses.

Over the past thirty years, Mike has played a key role in establishing and building three separate (and creatively and financially successful) creative agencies from scratch. These are: Saatch&Saatchi/Equator (1991), OgilvyOne Worldwide (1993) and Chemistry (1999)

One of the most highly awarded creatives in Ireland, Mike has won a vast number of national and international advertising awards, including Cannes, D&AD, The One Show, and ICAD as well as awards in more specialist disciplines such as sponsorship, direct response and direct mail.

With a strong set of practical craft skills that include, art direction, print design, packaging design, typography, copywriting, photography and film direction, Mike is a keen believer in leadership by example, and is happy to getting involved in any aspect of the creative process

Unusually, for someone with such a strong creative reputation, Mike also has formidable strategic planning skills. Having developed and implemented many highly successful strategic planning solutions for a wide variety of brands, he has also he has won two ADFX Advertising Effectiveness awards. (Including Gold, Silver and Bronze for Lidl at ADFX 2018).

Mike has always been a champion of a highly integrated approach to communications, at all times arguing for an active role for the brand, and always placing the consumer at the centre of things. With his diverse skill set, Mike provides the link between initial research, insight and strategy, right through to concept and final execution.

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