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The Visual Display of Quantitative Information 121

danny writes "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information is a recognised classic on statistical graphics; to the 1983 original, this 2001 edition adds some additional graphics, extra colour, and corrections. It is a broad-ranging work, covering history, theory and practice and, despite the formal title and scholarly references, not at all narrowly academic. It assumes only a very basic understanding of statistics." Read on for the rest of Danny's review.
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information
author Edward R. Tufte
pages 197
publisher Graphics Press 2001
rating 10
reviewer Danny Yee
ISBN 0961392142
summary the classic work on statistical graphics

Tufte begins with the different kinds of informational graphics (maps, time-series, narratives, and relational graphics), describing their origins and evolution and presenting examples of excellence in their design. Many of these are fascinating in their own right -- two that I particularly appreciated were Minard's depiction of Napoleon's disastrous retreat from Moscow and an 11th century map of China.

"For many people the first word that comes to mind when they think about statistical charts is 'lie.'" Tufte gives examples of different kinds of deceit in graphics, along with some principles for maintaining graphical integrity. He goes on to consider the reasons for the poor quality of many informational graphics: one is the relegation of their design to those with art training but without an understanding of either the substance of the material or of quantitative (statistical) methods.

Part two begins by introducing some terminology and theory for describing graphics. The principle "Above all else show the data" is formalised as maximization of the data-ink ratio, and illustrated with some "before and after" examples of erasure of redundant or non-data-ink. Tufte excoriates various kinds of "chartjunk": moire vibration (the disconcerting effect caused by repeating patterns), the overuse of grids, and the "ducks" created when the design takes precedence over everything else.

Tufte gives specific suggestions for the design of box plots, bar charts, and scattergraphs. He argues for the use of multifunctioning graphical elements -- building data measures or grids out of the data itself, for example, by using labels that also show the end points of the data ranges. And he looks at ways of maximizing data density (within reason) and using "small multiples," or repeated smaller graphics. A final chapter steps back to consider the balance between text, text-tables, tables, semi-graphics, and graphics -- "Given their low data-density and failure to order numbers along a visual dimension, pie charts should never be used" -- and to touch on the aesthetics of proportion and scale.

All of this is liberally illustrated with examples, drawn from across the natural and social sciences. Despite the space devoted to these, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information packs a lot in, avoiding repetition or verbosity. Tufte's own tables and graphs are appropriately effective and the volume as a whole is elegantly put together: though it's more than that, it could be appreciated simply as a work of art. Tufte also finds room to survey publication practices across a select sample of international newspapers and journals, comparing the data density of graphics and the proportion of relational graphics (involving at least two variables that aren't temporal or spatial).

Most obviously, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information should be read by those involved in writing, editing, or designing documents or displays that contain statistical graphics -- from professional editors, technical writers, academics, and journalists right down to high school students. But others may appreciate it too: it has changed the way I look at informational graphics.


Danny has written over 700 book reviews. You can purchase The Visual Display of Quantitative Information from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the (recently updated) book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

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  • by dbrower ( 114953 ) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @12:28PM (#7397085) Journal
    I'd like to have some more data about the new information - what has changed, and why. Anybody know?

    -dB

  • Good Book! (Score:2, Informative)

    by SEGV ( 1677 )
    I've mostly read this and Tufte's two other books, which a colleague kindly brought into work. They are all three a joy to read or just look at.
    • Re:Good Book! (Score:3, Informative)

      by Walter Wart ( 181556 )
      I would have to add a couple comments here. "Good Book" is a good start, but "Why this is a good book" is useful, too.

      Consider a possibly significant piece of information. I am fortunate enough to live in Portland, Oregon, the home of Powell's bookstore [powells.com]. The technical bookstore alone is a cavern covering most of a city block. The main store is three stories tall and does cover a whole block. There are always lots of new copies of Tufte's stuff on the shelves. I have almost never seen a used copy. People bu
  • by DoctorMabuse ( 456736 ) * on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @12:30PM (#7397106) Homepage
    As a consultant, I have to be very careful when choosing seminars/courses to attend. One, because they cost money, and two, because I don't get to bill that day(s), which even costs me more money.

    I will never regret attending Tufte's course. I learned more about web design, the evils of Power Point (see his article in a recent Wired) and other topics related to display of information, than I ever imagined possible. His course isn't for academics. If you ever give briefings where you have to display pie charts or bar graphs, you could learn things from his course. Highly recommended.
    • The problem isn't with power point, the problem is that is lowers the barrier for an incompetent speaker to put together a speech - a good speaker, however can use power point to do amazing things. IE, just yesterday I was at an hour long presentation where a librarian told us how to use the library. It's was just slide after slide of URLs and paragraphs she read from the screen. On the other hand, a few years ago, I saw an excellent speaker use power point to give a talk on the basics of string theory.
      • Tufte makes this point in his presentations. He thinks it's fine for use as a slide projector, but terrible for building the images.

        The classic example: Gettysburg [norvig.com]
      • The other big issue with Powerpoint presentations is that they're trying to be too many things all at once. They're a presentation (duh) but they also end up being speaker notes, background information, reference material -- and that's before chart-junk and chart-graphics. Good presentation slides usually have some well chosen graphics and just enough text to structure. But in a typical business setting that assumes that the presenter is familiar enough with the material that he doesn't need to read it off
    • Link to Article (Score:5, Informative)

      by Hell O'World ( 88678 ) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @01:00PM (#7397412)
      Read the Tufte article here [wired.com]
    • I am not a consultant (perminent employee), and spent my own money to go to a Tufte seminar. That was one of the best purchases I ever made, I felt I learned quite a bit from that and the things you learn are very applicable for design work of all kinds.

      The only thing I disagree with Tufte on is the design of computer user interfaces. Here I think he has somehow gone astray and not correctly extrapolated his main themes into interface.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I too am a consultant (time is valuable, must be selective, yaddayadda), and I was deeply disappointed in the one-day Tufte "seminar" I attended a few years back. He simply repeated the highlights of his books--which I'd already read, thanks--and showed the very same examples. This was really bizarre since all three books were included in the (steep) seminar price.

      He didn't talk at all about more recent work with digital media, which I'd thought was the point of the seminar. For what it's worth, he also se
      • <aol />

        I attended one of his seminars in the spring, based on how much I liked the books when I picked them up a few years ago, and it felt like a complete retread of the same material that I'd already read -- parts of which I've read several times, for that matter.

        The whole seminar was just waving around his books with a "gee, aren't these just wonderful" wave of self-awe, with an entertaining -- but if you've read the books, massively redundant -- overview of the themes in the books.

        There was a

  • A Vey Useful Book (Score:3, Informative)

    by TechyImmigrant ( 175943 ) * on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @12:31PM (#7397121) Homepage Journal
    I've used this book for years as my first point of reference when I have 'quantitive information' to display.

    Every engineer should have one to hand to keep themselves safe from the brain warping effects of powerpoint.
    • What do you mean?!?!? Just like, uh, get a few sentances, put bullets next to them and *BAM*, you have a presentation for everybody. Just add some swirlin graphics and some sound, and the information really stands out. To boot, since you can spend less than a minute per slide, make like a 100 of them, and then, here's the kicker, make your audience print the whole damn thing! That way they don't have to take notes or think even.
      • Just like, uh, get a few sentances, put bullets next to them and *BAM*, you have a presentation for everybody. Just add some swirlin graphics and some sound, and the information really stands out. To boot, since you can spend less than a minute per slide, make like a 100 of them, and then, here's the kicker, make your audience print the whole damn thing! That way they don't have to take notes or think even.

        An excellent summary. I recently read Tufte's book The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint [edwardtufte.com] (His online

    • I'll second this. It is also required reading for experimental psychologists and other social scientists who analyze and present quantitative data.
  • by twiddlingbits ( 707452 ) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @12:33PM (#7397143)
    The author was interviewed by the CAIB. He stated a lot of the information presented that lead the NASA managers to the "we can't do anything" approach was poorly designed and did NOT get information across, or was slanted. He pointed out several PowerPoint slides that had 10-12 errors on them that led to incorrect interpretations by the audience. This is a GREAT book, and should be on every engineer's shelf if they present data to an audience (including peers). MBA's study some of this in their classes, but (most) Engineers and Scientists and Doctors don't. It's a shame when you have great information that is hidden by poor presentation.
  • by rev063 ( 591509 ) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @12:34PM (#7397146) Homepage
    Despite this classic book being available for 20 years, there are still plenty of examples of bad statistical graphics to be found in the mainstream media. Here's just one example from the Seattle Times this year [nonfamous.com], along with a "non-lying" revision of the chart, but you can find plenty by flipping through just about any regional newspaper. Or any edition of USA Today. The NYT usually has good charts, though.

    I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who has to produce charts for their job.

    • The "corrected" chart is worse than the original. The author says "I re-did the chart in Excel, and you can see that a real chart tells a very different picture: actually, it's the middle classes that carry the greatest share of the tax burden, however you look at it."

      Balderdash and poppycock. Why are you splitting the top 5% into two groups? Why, to make their contributions look smaller! That's a deliberate deception. How about if you combined the top 2-5% with the top 1% and show the top 5% as one
      • Why are you splitting the top 5% into two groups? Why, to make their contributions look smaller!

        Because that's how the original Seattle Times graphs broke them down. And given how large a part of the federal budget is devoted to Social Security and Medicare, it's ridiculous to look only at income tax and not at all federal taxes. The total for all federal taxes for the top 5% is 41.2% of all taxes paid vs. the 44.6% paid by the "middle class" WHICH WERE ENTIRELY OMITTED from the Seattle Times graph.

        (And
        • No, in fact, the original PI article grouped the top twentieth together. The GP is correct: the "improved" graph is far more deceptive than the original, unless you believe that people between the 95th and 99th percentile of income are "middle class".

          It is, perhaps, ironic that these graphs are begin used in a discussion related to Tufte, though: his core thesis is that an effective graphic reduces the amount of ink by displaying the right data about the right relationship. In this case, I can think of t
        • I would like to see a cummulative %paid vs %population graph, like a lorenz curve.

          I would show you with ascii-art, but that was too lame for slashdot, apparently.
      • As the author of the corrected graphic, I feel I ought to make a rebuttal here.

        Why are you splitting the top 5% into two groups?

        Because that's how the original article (sadly no longer available) divided society. There were four groups: lower classes (bottom 60% quantiles) middle classes (not mentioned), upper classes (above 5%) and super-rich (above 1%). Then a graph compared income taxes paid by each. The top two groups were compared IN THE CONTEXT OF the bottom group, but the top two groups overl

        • Because that's how the original article (sadly no longer available) divided society.

          Funny, I have it up in another tab right now. I followed your link to the Seattle Times, created a bogus login, and accessed the article in the archives. It does not have the graphic in the archives article, but your page links to that.

          Nowhere in the article does it divide society up as you claim. I only find one mention of different percentiles:

          Seattle Times Quote: The top 5 percent of the nation's taxpayers paid 41
          • No attempt is made to have the numbers add up to 100%. THAT ISN'T THE POINT OF THE GRAPH.

            I think the point remains, having the graph add up to 100% would be the most clear. I agree with your original assertion that a pie chart would have been best. There are a few things that the graph needs to convey here, and a pie chart could probably do that really well.

            In effect, the graph says "The top 5% pays much more that the bottom 60%, and even if you restrict it to the top 1% they still pay more!" The point i

    • there are still plenty of examples of bad statistical graphics to be found in the mainstream media. Here's just one example from the Seattle Times this year

      Actually, when talking about distribution of the tax burden among income classes, it is perfectly reasonable to compare the "top 5%" to the "top 1%" as in the Seattle Times graph, even though the latter is a subset of the former. The complainant seems to be confusing the bar graph with a pie chart, where the slices have to be exclusive and the percen

  • Worth the read (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    In a nutshell, it's KISS for charts. Get rid of the cruft and let the data speak for itself.

    This book also made me realize consciously many of the features that make me like the graphs/maps/charts that I appreciate. When done right, you can pack a lot of information into a small presentation area.

    Also see Tufte's page or two in the Challenger Accident Investigation Board Report on PowerPoint use in NASA.

    Overheard recently: "I go to customer sites. They show me their Powerpoint presentation. I show them m
    • Overheard recently: "I go to customer sites. They show me their Powerpoint presentation. I show them my Powerpoint presentation. And we think we've communicated."

      Well that's the fault of "they" and "we", not Powerpoint. People blaming the tool, again.

      • It's the wrong tool for the job, in my opinion. Powerpoint (or MS) can be partially blamed because it's marketed as a communication package, but is unsuited for a lot (perhaps most) of the things that organisations need such a package to be able to do. If you have time, have a read of this [ohio-state.edu] for a more coherent argument against PPT as a tool.
        • I find it really useful in my engineering job as a place to bundle up all the data on a design for data releases, design presentations, or just to hand to anyone new who needs to get up to speed on the project. I can put schematics, assembly drawings, block diagrams, interface control tables and whatever all into one handy package. They also convert to PDF well.
          • In that case, I'd say you're going against the PPT grain. Usually the PPT stuff I encounter consists of bullet points, clip art, and cheesy transitions. You're a black sheep, twisting PPT into something useful and unusual.

  • That would be interesting, whale sounds, bird calls, waves...

    All included in the new "Statistical information reports to relax by", also available as ringtones for your polyphonic mobile phone. Classics such as the "2000 census" , "Tea sales in North Dakota" and the timeless "Distribution of Toaster ownership by educational group", this offer is only available direct and will not be seen in any shops. Only $19.95, P&P extra, add 6% sales tax for residents in CA.
    • Non Visual display of Statistical information...

      That would be interesting, whale sounds, bird calls, waves...


      That's not as silly as it sounds. The ears, for instance (along with the processing behind them) are VERY good at finding one-dimensional patterns in time series, just as the eye is good at finding patterns in 2-D. Ears also have several other data-analysis tricks available, related to active and passive echolocation along with sonic direction-finding.

      A great recent example was the sound of the [slashdot.org]
  • I have recently converted to the Linux way of doing things, after being fed up with M$ for too long.

    In my department, we use proprietary software for all of our data reporting. I would like to use an open source program instead, but since I'm new to Linux, I'm not sure what's out there.

    I'm hoping the slashdot community can help me on this one- what are some good plotting programs that run on Linux?
  • Tufte's website (Score:5, Informative)

    by rev063 ( 591509 ) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @12:44PM (#7397259) Homepage
    Check out www.edwardtufte.com [edwardtufte.com] for more information about Tufte's work. The story of how he had to publish his own books [edwardtufte.com] to get them looking exactly how he wanted (important when your thesis is about ideal visual display!) is very interesting. The "Ask E.T." [edwardtufte.com] section is also well worth a read.
    • And the elegantly functional design of his website could be a lesson to the designers of other *cough* busier sites.
    • The story of how he had to publish his own books to get them looking exactly how he wanted...

      ...and apparently he needs to work on his web pages more to get them looking exactly how he wants. Some excerpts:

      my Ph.D. in Po itical Science

      Not to be immo est, but

      and forever knowledge, i.e. pri ciples about Information Design

      I wore a doctor's white coa , so I strolled all around

      One wonders what tool was used to have such a specific error -- missing letters.

      --Rob

  • Filelight (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Makarakalax ( 658810 ) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @12:51PM (#7397337) Homepage

    I've written a small program for KDE that exhibits what I feel is a fairly novel method for representating hierarchical data graphically.

    Currently it only shows information related to your filesystem, but with the next version it will begin accepting any kind of hierarchical data piped from the cli, via a text file, etc. (method of input as yet unfinalised).

    If anyone's interested, here's a screenshot [methylblue.com], and here's the homepage [methylblue.com]

    I apologise for the plug; usually I'm quite good and wait for at least on-topic opportunities! I'm sure I'll still get the usual ac death threats etc. nothertheless I hope to have interested some people.

    • VERY cool -- kudos!
    • That's really awesome. Would it be very hard to alter it to build and run under KDE 2? I don't want to download the entire thing just to run a single app. <rant>Why do toolkit designers always insist on sprinkling a thousand new APIs that break backward compatibility into every major release, forcing me to download and compile hundreds of MEGABYTES of stuff just to run a single application</rant> If you can just give me a hint what might have to be modified, I'll do my own "backport."

      I apologi

      • KDE 2 eh? Well Kde 3 and 2 are fairly source compatable to my knowledge so I imagine the problems would be with Qt. I'm not sure how much exactly. If you can compromise the configure script so that it doesn't suspect you haven't got Qt 3.1, you can try to compile it. To be honest the configure script is hardly necessary, it's a generic KDE one and if you can somehow generate the makefiles without it then you'll be fine. Perhaps just cut out mose of the beginning of it. I dunno how automake and friends work
    • G'day,

      Very nice.

      I've seen similar displays called Radial, Space-Filling (RSF) [google.com.au] visualizations.

      A paper was presented at InfoVis2002 [infovis.org] on InterRings [wpi.edu] (PDF) that might be of interest.

      Regards,
      Chris.

    • Congratulations, you've reimplemented IconFactory's [iconfactory.com] iPulse [apple.com]. Quoting the blurb about the software, as run on both Apple & IF's site:

      About iPulse

      Using its concise and visually pleasing graphical user interface, iPulse displays a multitude of information on the desktop or in the dock. The entire UI is completely configurable so you can turn off gauges you don't want, leaving only what you are interested in for easy viewing.

      Rated Four Mice by MacWorld Magazine, May, 2003.

      iPulse's Gauges:
      - CPU activi

      • I saw iPulse after I'd worked on Filelight. It's not really entirely similar to what I've done. Frankly it's probably better because it displays so much different information in a compact form. My tool is far more specific.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @12:58PM (#7397392)
    I got this book for Xmas a few years back and was a bit disappointed -- it is basically an "old school" version of Jakob Nielsen. The book was pretty and a somewhat interesting read with (as everyone always mentions) good historical examples, but expensive and ultimately not incredibly insightful. ET seems to have carved a good niche for himself making PowerPoint jockies feel part of a broader cultural tradition.

    Sorry to be so negative.
    • I have to agree with you. Certainly it's worth a read, and I'm sure most people will gain something from it, but it's really an art book with a few sensible tips in, rather than a deeply thought out guide to presenting information. The content comes down to 'avoid grids, reduce clutter, remove all un-necessary data' - most of the book is historical info or pictures. Definitely read before you buy it.
    • I somehow doubt that a man who wrote the article "PowerPoint Is Evil [wired.com]," (itself a summary of his book The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint [edwardtufte.com]) would be popular with "PowerPoint Jockies."

      While Tufte is definately interested in usability, he's no Nielsen. Nielsen focuses on the usability of computer interfaces. Tufte isn't terribly interested in computer interfaces (although he does discuss them), he is more generally interested in making high quality displays of information. Take a look at the majority of ch

  • by Stephen ( 20676 ) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @01:00PM (#7397411) Homepage
    Interesting that you should single out the map of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow. That graphic was the inspiration for our web log analysis program ClickTracks [clicktracks.com]. Our CEO saw it and realised that what web log analysis needed was to show data in context, rather than in long lists. We have the poster of the Napoleon map on the wall of our office.
    • I suspect that the most your web designer got out of the books was a cool poster.

      Your front page certainly does not show that the designer paid much attention to the ideas in the books. The animated gif from hell at the right side is seriously distracting to the viewer. I think a closer reading of Tufte would probably lead to the inference that this is exactly the kind of junky graphics that he dislikes the most.

      The lack of clear navigation tools on the front page doesn't help, nor does the fact that

  • by Adam_Trask ( 694692 ) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @01:11PM (#7397503)
    FYI: some more resources [stanford.edu]
  • The man is a blowhard. He spends most of his time in his lectures bragging about his book collection and oversimplifying real world scenarios so they fit into his diagrams.

    His books are a study in design without content. Anyone who has any sense will find nothing of any value in his books that they haven't seen in a hundred places before.

    The man lives off the hubris of managers everywhere.

    That is the true display of his genius.
    • I second that. Yesterday I took his course in DC and left after the first sesssion. As I was taking the metro back to the office, I noticed others who left with their books. The first hour was significant were he talk about the "grand principles of analytical design, but after that it was one plug or look at how mart I am after another. Interestingly enough I went home and read one of the books that was published in the 1990's and it was verbatim as to what he was saying in the lecture. You would think afte
  • I have a concern about the use of charts that parallels concerns about using statistics. Either, poorly done, can be misleading. But the real problem is in the illusion that ordinary, average people can be expected to make sense of either charts or statistics. I may present a graph or statistical test that really does demonstrate what I claim it does (within the limits of what's afforded by my data). It's still at some level irresponsible of me to present this to people who I know are not able to evalua
    • But the real problem is in the illusion that ordinary, average people can be expected to make sense of either charts or statistics.

      They can but are usually too lazy to try, in which case nothing will help. See www.dilbert.com for details.

      TWW

  • by Speare ( 84249 ) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @01:17PM (#7397578) Homepage Journal
    I love Tufte's books-- have three of them on my shelf. They're very intricate and excellent. They're visceral studies in how you can achieve excellence.

    But that's just the problem: they are over the top. Not everyone is an aesthete.

    Most people would rather just type a few lines into a PowerPoint template and flash it onto an 800x600 screen, rather than hire a team of graphic artists to develop a diecut 1200dpi offset-print folder of reports which draw a visual metaphor between daVinci's visions and last quarter's sales in the Kansas region. And most of the time, audiences would rather skim than study, too.

    I see Tufte as belonging somewhere between Knuth and Escher. If you consider his valid points and enjoy the energy he brings to the craft, great. But keep pragmatism in the process too: if it's good enough, ship it, and refine it for the next revision.

    • Good presentation of information IS being pragmatic. Too often people substitute the word "pragmatic" for the word "lazy".

      Speaking of the PowerPoint generation, as a software developer who actually tries to study information presentation from the likes of Edward Tufte [edwardtufte.com], Jakob Nielsen [useit.com], and so forth I still get real frustrated when the PHB's dictate requirements with no insight at all. Often times colors choices are made just by picking the prettiest color amongst the 32-color palette available in the MS W

    • Actually, you touch on what I consider a problem with Tufte and the computer domain. Many people always point to Tufte as the examples to follow into making clear displays and websites to display lost of data. But when you actually try to adapt anything he does, one quickly find out that most of his examples of visualizing repetitive data are predicating on using high-resoltuion output -- like paper. Not screen. You cannot show 40 T-shirts, or faces, or blocks depciting small differences in a dataset on a 7
      • But when you actually try to adapt anything he does, one quickly find out that most of his examples of visualizing repetitive data are predicating on using high-resoltuion output -- like paper.

        True enough. Tufte discusses this a bit more in his book The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint [edwardtufte.com]. (It's summarized online in "PowerPoint is Evil [wired.com]".)

        One of his points? Modern computer screens suck. The human eye is capable of distinguishing fairly high resolution data. He does have a bit of a fuzzy spot when thinkin

        • He also gets into computer interface design in Visual Explanations [newworldcider.com]. He cites the very low resolution of computer displays, using the interface from a Beethoven CD-ROM, and contrasts this against a guide he helped design for the National Gallery in Washington, DC.

          Naturally Tufte prefers his own stuff, but with his museum system he makes the same point that he's hammering on about now with PowerPoint: he does the best he can with the software interface, but the key is to provide a good handout -- if you go

          • ...Tufte with his "man, these things suck compared to paper" defeatism.

            Probably a fair assessment.

            I was struck by the fact that his Anti-PowerPoint book [edwardtufte.com] didn't really discuss what you should do, it mostly harped on what not to do. After a bit it dawned on me what I should be doing (That is, the exact things my high-school public speaking teacher was saying), but the lack of any real direction on how to move forward was surprising. All the more surprising given that he is widely praised as an excellent

  • I already own the 1983 edition (as well as copies of "Envisioning Information" and "Visual Explanations.")

    So what I really need to know is just what has been added in the new edition and whether it's really worth shelling out $40 for.

    "Some additional graphics, extra colour, and corrections" doesn't really tell me a whole lot. It does suggest that it's not much of an update and probably not a must-have if you have the older edition. Is that correct? Of course, if the "additional graphics" include any gems
  • This book, and its predecessor "How to Lie with Statistics", have been described as "The Elements of Style" for graphics. But William Strunk Jr. would have been horrified by the title. Visual Display? What other kind of display is there? A better title would have been "Displaying Quantitative Information". Having said that, I greatly enjoyed the book, and learned much from the 1st edition. Anyone working with graphics should read it.
  • This is another case of people espousing somewhat academic ideals because they're either idealistic or posturing. Much like the methods academics would suggest for general programming, a lot of the examples in this book assume a populace that has the ability to understand them. This isn't to say that we shouldn't know the principles behind information display, but those can be had in much simpler books, with more real world examples. Sure, it's cool that the Okinawa train schedule packs a ton of info into a
  • "Part two begins by introducing some terminology and theory for describing graphics. The principle "Above all else show the data" is formalised as maximization of the data-ink ratio, and illustrated with some "before and after" examples of erasure of redundant or non-data-ink. Tufte excoriates various kinds of "chartjunk": moire vibration (the disconcerting effect caused by repeating patterns), the overuse of grids, and the "ducks" created when the design takes precedence over everything else."

    All those w
  • by Phronesis ( 175966 ) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @03:52PM (#7399354)
    I don't get any sense from the review whether the changes make it worth buying the new edition if I already own (and have committed to memory) the first edition.
  • Warning (Score:4, Informative)

    by rnd() ( 118781 ) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @05:14PM (#7400255) Homepage
    There was a story on this book in Slashdot a few years ago, and I ended up deciding to purchase the book.

    It's decent material, and it's all accurate, but it's nothing revolutionary.

    Generally, when the media publishes a misleading chart or graph it's done intentionally, and anyone of moderate intelligence realizes that when viewing the chart or graph.

    The book is like Strunk and White for people who display quantitative information.

    Strunk and White is not useful for most people raised on standard English grammar, and is quite frankly annoyingly parochial. Tufte's books strike me similarly. For instance, just as Strunk and White would likely find authors like Jack Kerouak or Junot Diaz abhorrent, Tufte would find Wired magazine abhorrent for all its visual excess and non-information-conveying design.

    I haven't seen the latest edition, but I recommend browsing through this one at the book store before spending money on it.
  • Today I received a paper-mail ad for a class by Tufte on "Presenting Data and Information".
    I believe his book is well regarded, but wonder what prompted this review at this time :-)

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