Data Visualization According to Tufte

The name Edward Tufte is synonymous with information graphics. What’s interesting is the Tufte has been at this design niche for a while now, but it seems he’s getting new traction as infographics become quite popular.

Frankly, before I took his class last week, I hadn’t heard of him. But then again, this is a more focused area of graphic design heavy in statistical data research and analysis. So basically it’s less about form and much more about function. Understanding the function–the message–and having a strong one at that is what drives the form. As Tufte explained it, the first intellectual task is to understand how to explain something with images. To be able to effectively produce the desired effect–with the audience–you must understand the content as the messenger. And you must be viewed as credible source by the audience.

Tufte is certainly a little too numbers heavy for me; In fact, I may have drifted off into my dreamland and closed my eyes for more than a hot second when he started getting heavy into statistics. With all due respect, Mr. Tufte, it’s not you it’s the stats. But I get his point here–you want to have strong, accurate quantitative data in order to inform your design. Besides the numbers, he made some other solid points about successful presentations–you need to have high-resolution graphics, you have to move away from bulleted PowerPoints, and you should arrive early and end early, giving your audience back some time.

One of the coolest pieces he showed us was the Popular Music infographic. He even showed an interactive version on his iPad that played music and showed a picture of the artist over the infographic design.

To date, he’s published four books–Beautiful Evidence, Envisioning Information, Visual Explanations, and the The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. To learn more about those and the courses he offers visit www.edwardtufte.com.

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