The new feature was inspired by the timeline used by the New York Public Library (scroll to the bottom of the page), but differs in two ways.
Second, instead of a legend, Cooper Hewitt is (characteristically) using emoji to convey the timeline events.
The screenshot above shows the emoji version of the timeline and a plain text equivalent for accessibility purposes. As Sam Brenner writes in a blog post about the new timeline
The thought process for the second issue (use of color) went like this:
Color will be useless so we will have to use shapes as well. But then we’ll need a legend because color or shape don’t have anything to do with timeline events like “date created” or “date exhibited.” But legends are a bummer — so old media! Maybe we could use symbols instead? Maybe we could use EMOJI?!?!?
Beyond the fact that their symbolic nature transcends the “map a color to an idea” style of legend, emojis further a second goal that we have with the collections site, which is to “avoid feeling like a database.” They allow for novelty, comfort and humor to be injected into the digital world as quickly as typing a letter on a keyboard.I am an old person and so I prefer the text version (though once I figure all the emoji out I do see that I'll be able to scan a timeline with much more rapid understanding than the coloured diamonds of NYPL). Over all, as with the Date Graph on the V&A Spelunker, I'm enjoying the new ways that are seeping through for museums to show something of the life stories of their collections online.