Data Storytelling

Data Visualization / Design Research /  Education / Historical Analysis

Work type: Data Visualization
Dates:  2022

Organism and Territory —Apples and Pennsylvania

Organism and Territory – Apples and Pennsylvania. Data Visualization. Mary Kahle, 2022.

The project was an exploration of what a symbol, or image actually represents, based on Alfred Korzybski's quote “A map is not the territory”. Korzybski presented this statement in 1931 to point out that the relationship between an object and the representation of that object is not absolute; a map can only show you one version of the whole story. An abstraction derived from something, or a reaction to it, is not the thing itself. This is to say people's access to knowledge of reality is adapted through the lens of their lived experience. 

This abstracted data visualization uses various graphic techniques to depict both quantitative and qualitative data, tracing the biological evolution, sociocultural effects, and historical journey of modern eating apple cultivars across the world.

 The research representation spans 750,000 years, from the origin of Malus sieversii (apple origin) in Kazakhstan to the orchards of Malus domestica (modern apple) in Pennsylvania, as an ‘Organism and [its’] Territory’.

To view the key, click here.

Research and Narrative Building

The Design Challenge

Create a data visualization using only illustrations (no text) to represent a data story based on research of a specific ‘organism’ and its' ‘territory’.

In this case, modern eating apples are the organism, and their journey from Kazakhstan to Pennsylvania, is the territory.

STEAM Education — Opportunities for Growth

Interdisciplinary Practices in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) Education
Data Visualization, Drexel University, 2022

STEAM education informs various design disciplines like architecture and industrial design due to their interdisciplinary nature.

Skills developed from STEAM-based, hands-on learning include authenticity, problem-solving, critical thinking, social and emotional learning, divergent thinking, cultural competency, and spatial awareness (to name a few).

These key skills are highly transferable to the modern-day workforce need which calls for defining problems, generating ideas, and understanding how to transform or synthesize these problems into actionable solutions.

STEAM Education. Data Visualization. Mary Kahle, 2022.

Sketches, Data Gathering/Use, and Visualization

The visualization is based on research and data collection of the history and geopolitical impacts of a transition from Liberal Arts to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), and STEM to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) based education in the United States. 

  • Various interpersonal skills gained from this pedagogical practice
  • Types of careers derived from STEAM education
  • Projected growth in employment and salaries of those careers (
  • Accessibility/limitations to STEAM-based careers due to higher education requirements.

The starting point for this research and visualization was my personal interest in the behaviors and characteristics of successful cross-disciplinary collaboration. 

Creativity and innovation have long been attributed to collaborative engagements between diverse groups of people.

Interdisciplinary work, at its core, is the collection of multiple disciplinary approaches working together successfully.
This approach encourages the practice of cross-boundary or cross-disciplinary engagement., Excel, Adobe Illustrator, and InDesign were used to complete the visualization.

This project was a precursor to my master’s thesis research.

Concept sketch and key for viz.

Data collection.


Visual language and color story were inspired by vintage edcuational science posters. output. output. and Illustrator concept merged. and Illustrator concept merged.
Illustrator edited viz.
Color palette tests.

© Mary Kahle, 2024