Graphic design, research and heritage of social sciences
© national archives

Graphic design, research and heritage of social sciences. Jacques Bertin's Graphic Design Laboratory

March 2021 to February 2025

Project coordinator: Charlotte Bigg, Centre Alexandre Koyre
Partners: ACTE Arts, Créations, Théories, Esthétiques, Géographie-cités, AN Archives Nationales, HEAD – Genève Institut de recherche en art et en design, CAK Centre Alexandre Koyre, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Université Hosei / Graduate School of Engineering and Design, PTAC pratiques et théories de l'art contemporain
Financing: ANR Agence nationale de la recherche
Project team: Ange Aniesa, Charlotte Bigg, David Bihanic, Cécile Fabris, Nadine Gastaldi, Élise Gay et Kévin Donnot, Anthony Masure, Takashi Morita, Eve Netchine, Gilles Palsky, Anne-Lyse Renon
Link to project website

This project, funded by the French National Research Agency (2021-2025 program), aims to carry out the first large-scale study of the relationship between graphic design and research in the Humanities and Social Sciences, from the 1950s to the present. The contemporary rise of imaging technologies and data visualization in all fields of knowledge places "visuality" at the heart of research and its communication, with epistemological, social and cultural implications. Jacques Bertin's Laboratoire de graphique was a major historical actor in this movement, at the crossroads of graphic innovation and the human and social sciences as they were reinvented, particularly in France, in the second half of the 20th century.

Created in 1954, this laboratory was directed by the cartographer and semiologist Jacques Bertin at the École Pratique des Hautes Études and then at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS). During the 50 years of its existence, the laboratory articulated in an unprecedented way the production of images, the representation of data, and scientific research, forming in particular the subject of Jacques Bertin's treatise: Sémiologie graphique (1967). If the activities of the laboratory have been the subject of a few specialized studies, mainly related to cartographic research, its history remains largely unknown. The aim of this project will be to situate the contributions and intellectual trajectory of its graphic experiments in their local and international contexts, in order to understand their place in the transformation of the social sciences during the 20th century. The objective will be to develop a reflection on the visual cultures of the social sciences and on the emerging practices of graphic design and data visualization, while mobilizing the tools specific to these fields in a global research-creation approach.

A consortium bringing together the EHESS, the National Archives, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BnF), the Universities of Rennes 2, Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris Diderot, the Haute École d'Art & Design (HEAD – Geneva), and the Japanese Hosei University is proposing from the valorization of the Bertin funds and the Graphic Design Laboratory, to initiate an interdisciplinary research dynamic on the patrimonialization and the study of visual cultures of social sciences and graphic design, from the 1950s to the age of digital humanities.

View all of the school's projects