Miles Davis’s Illustrious Jazz Career Visualized Like A Record

Talk about kind of blue.

How do you visualize the decades-long career of a jazz titan? Songs written? Records recorded? Notes played? In this beautiful visualization, which looks almost like a record shot into space, the prolific body of work left behind by jazz great Miles Davis is visualized by the lives of the artists he touched.


Created by Fathom–the information-visualization firm co-founded by Processing inventor Ben Fry–the Scaled in Miles poster tries to make sense of Davis’s storied career by visualizing each of the 577 artists he collaborated with over 405 recording sessions. A lot of these guys are giants in their own right: Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, John Coltrane, Larry Young, and more.

It’s an analog version of an interactive timeline that Fathom put together earlier in the year, but to get the same information across in poster form, without sound or animations, Fathom had to figure out how to cram a lot of data into a single poster-sized sheet.

The outermost ring of the visualization represents the timelines of Miles’s recording career, from his first studio recording on April 24, 1945, to his last recording on August 25, 1991. Landmark sessions, like Birth of the Cool or Kind of Blue, are marked out with descriptions, so you know where on the timeline they happened.

Each bar represents a musician collaborating in a recording session over time. As you travel to the innermost rings, Davis’s collaborators are grouped according to their instrument–saxophone, drums, keyboards, bass, and so on. Artists who played with Davis multiple times have their sessions connected by thin gold arcs.

What’s great about the Scaled in Miles poster–besides the fact that it’s frickin’ gorgeous–is that when compared to its web counterpart, it shows just how different an approach to data visualization is needed by changing the medium from digital to print. You can’t just count on people being able to drill down for more information: you need to make sure the whole thing works even from across the room without a mouse.

You can buy it for the jazz fan in your life online for $60 here.