Final Project Proposal: Earth Timeline

by caudenri @ 6:58 pm 21 March 2010

I’m currently working on a group project in which we are designing an exhibit about the evolution of birds. As I research the topic, I’ve become increasingly interested in the way that people perceive time on a long scale and also in the history of the earth. I would like to build on the research and motivation from this other project and create an interactive timeline for my capstone project. I would like to show the scale of the different time periods of earth’s history and what was going on on the Earth at that time period (this is of course dependent on the research that is available; factors like temperature data is more accurate in recent history than the theories we have for ancient times.) Factors I’d specifically like to show are average temperatures, continent formation, extinctions, and an brief overview of the types of life in the time period.

I know I’d like to do some sort of an interface that shows the whole timeline but allows you to magnify any portion to see the detail. I looked around for timelines like this on the internet and found a few nice ones but they all felt a little too segmented to me. I want to find a way to keep the information close together so it would be easy for the user to explore and compare information.

timeline example 1

I like the presentation of background information in this example and how they present the world maps for each period.

timeline example 2

British History timeline– The aesthetics are not great but I like the way of showing a larger part of the timeline at the bottom of the screen and using that to control where you are on the main screen frame.

It’s generally difficult for people to conceive of long time periods; the dinosaurs lived 65 million years ago but what does that mean? I would want this piece to be easy to understand and navigate and to be interesting to play with. I envision that something like this could appear on a website for the National Geographic or Discovery.

sketch ideas

Here’s a few sketches I made for several modes the timeline could have and what the interface could look like, however I’d like to come up with a way to show all the information in a more integrated way.

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