Periodic Table of Elements

Original Look, designed by Dmitri Mendeleev (1869)

‘The Periodic Table of Elements’ is a very ubiquitous design that pretty much every human being on this planet would be able to identify, even without much knowledge tall of Chemistry. Its vast significance contributes to its success in Design as it is an image that will never be forgotten or grow old throughout time. You see it everywhere, from classroom walls to T-shirt prints. You will find it all over the internet being used in predictable formats for standard reasons, or you may find it appears there for different types of design as it is a very iconic and mindful piece of work.

If we take a minute to reflect on the history and reasons behind this omnipresent work, we’ll remember how during the nineteenth century there was remarkable progress within the field of Chemistry. A bit later on, by the 1850’s, more than 60 elements along with their atomic weights had been discovered. There was a huge outflow of other information on different elements alongside this and even though Chemists had known for years that certain elements shared many common properties, it wasn’t until Russian scientist, Dmitri Mendeleev sketched out the first ever Periodic Table — the initial idea, that significant progress was finally made in deciphering these qualities, thanks to his use of mapping out of so-called properties against their atomic weight. When taken further in organising this table around, a pattern began to emerge with indistinguishable characteristics appearing at regular intervals. At the time this pattern was not fully understood, as it was before the development of quantum mechanics, which occurred a little later in the twentieth century.

Over time Dmitri’s table gathered more information, adding to its 30-odd elements. He came to realise that the integrity of the repeating structure could only be maintained by leaving blank spaces. Dmitri was bold enough to also suggest that new elements would be discovered to fill these spaces. He even managed to anticipate the weight and properties of the missing elements by basing them on which column they fell under in the table. The table was starting to look as it does today, the finalised version.

Within the next few years Mendeleev’s confidence was justified when the elements Gallium, Scandium and Germanium were discovered and found to correspond with his predictions. The power of Dmitri’s table was within his and its visualisation of unseen interpretations of the world.

Over time people have modernised the look of Dmitri’s influential design and nowadays refer to it in a more casual sense as just “The Periodic Table” because it is undoubtedly one of the most famous and universal designs, for many reasons.

Today, the Periodic Table includes 117 elements, encompassing a century and a half of scientific revolution, but remains true to Mendeleev’s original and omnipresent vision. There is no questioning the ultimate success of this piece’s visual communication as it as lived on through the decades and will continue to do so until the end of time, staying more or less the exact same as it is now.