The periodic table may be one of the greatest accomplishments in information visualization. Its simple approach—lining and layering atoms by number of protons—is something that anyone can understand. But the subtle ways the table groups elements into related columns or implies traits through its diagonals is data poetry to the trained scientist.
Of course, that hasn’t stopped the table from being reimagined many times. Most recently, designer Alison Haigh created this minimalist periodic table, built less for understanding the nature of elements than appreciating the basic intricacies behind our natural world.
“I remembered drawing these diagrams in chemistry lessons back at school and how they helped me to make sense of the periodic table,” Haigh tells Co.Design. “ I wanted to see how the pattern would develop if the electron diagrams replaced the traditional information on the periodic table.”
What you see is the same table that you know (and possibly love). But rather than focusing on abbreviated names or atomic weight, Haigh rendered each element through its growing expanse of electrons. So the arrangement is the same, but the lens through which they’re rendered is a bit different.
“I started with Copernicium [last in row 7] as it was the largest and it gave me the structure for the rest,” Haigh explains. “Instead of evenly spacing the electrons around each shell, they are based on this structure and get added clockwise as the number increases. This helps to highlight how they grow in size.”
It’s also just a beautiful little atomic abstraction that Haigh has developed, with enough ridges and intersections to appear active even when frozen in print, with structures that appear increasingly complicated without implying predictable iteration. And if you’re as big a fan as we are, you can order a print of your own for a to-be-determined price.
[Hat tip: Laughing Squid]