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The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

4.41  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,041 Ratings  ·  348 Reviews
A modern classic. Tufte teaches the fundamentals of graphics, charts, maps and tables. "A visual Strunk and White" (The Boston Globe). Includes 250 delightfullly entertaining illustrations, all beautifully printed.
Hardcover, 197 pages
Published February 2nd 2006 by Graphics Press (first published 1983)
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Mar 01, 2016 Zanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Zanna by: Tony Bleasdale
When I started secondary school I was mildly apprehensive about 'physics', an unfamiliar word that elicited an actual shudder from my mother. Fortunately, my elderly teacher had an infectious affection for his subject. I remember that he noticed me examining the monthly night-sky chart pinned to the classroom door, and thereafter would print off an extra copy specially and wordlessly hand it to me if he saw me in the corridor (never in class, not wishing to embarrass me*) Our first lessons tried ...more
I've read this previously, but I was reminded of it again when someone brought up the ink/information ratio. It's vital for anybody in science, research, or business, anybody who has to make presentations or write reports or analyze data, and is an antidote to years of sloppy PowerPoints and reading captions verbatim off of slides.

Aug 18, 2015 Lily rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5 stars. I read this book because 1) as a scientist, I care a lot about visualizing information in ways that are both meaningful and attractive, and 2) this book is hailed as a classic and cited by many when discussing what constitutes a good graphic. After eying it on many coffee tables and office bookshelves, I finally decided to pick it up from the library. I'm glad that I didn't buy it.

There are some positives: a few inspiring examples of creative, precise designs that tell a story and re
Kelly H. (Maybedog)
Edward Tufte is brilliant. His books, including this one, are artwork disguised as a textbook. The purpose of all three is to explain both good and bad ways of explaining information but they are so much more than that. There is a rich history interwoven in the books' pages. The examples are so interesting that I found myself learning more than just how to convey information. For example, one of the best graphics for conveying information ever made is a chart/map tracking Napoleon Bonaparte's ar ...more
Roger Wood
The book led was one of the most enlightening books that I've every read. I've always had a penchant for using numbers, images, and heuristics to explain, and began taking Edward Tufte's courses when the opportunity arose, starting in 1998. He held them in hotel ballrooms throughout the United States, and his followers attended with cult-like repetition, sometimes registering for the same course 6 times in one year.

Edward Tufte is one of the most elegant designers of information alive today, the
Jan 19, 2008 Paula rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book about graphs.

How, you ask, could anyone write a book about graphs, let alone read one? Surely you've never found the sex appeal of a bar chart, the seductiveness of a scatterplot. Well my friend, you simply have never realized the power of a well-designed graph.

Tufte took on the challenge of making visual information interesting decades ago, and it's still considered one of the top 100 books of the 20th century. He shows examples of what the best displays and worst displays are i
Mar 31, 2009 Bruce rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who has to illustrate a report or presentation
Well, 3 1/2 stars, really, but GoodReads won't permit that. Don't let the horrifically dull title fool you. Edward Tufte knows a thing or two about chart design, to say the least (he's built a second career on this obsession). Think this is dull stuff? Ha, and again I say ha. It's darn sexy. Don't believe me? Consider this consequence of the era of optimism or this version of Little Red Riding Hood or this nifty day-in-the-life or this graphic design shop which is such a brilliant specialist in ...more
Daniel Rekshan
May 25, 2011 Daniel Rekshan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: programming
People have told me to read this book for years and I've always been impressed by the strength of their recommendations.

However, on reading this book, I was initially underwhelmed. I felt like Tufte was just rehashing common sense about graphs. I read through it and found myself saying, 'yeah yeah, I get it.'

On reflection a week after finishing, I realized this book is genius. Tufte concisely and clearly articulates principles, which should be common sense, so well that they have appearance to b
Oct 03, 2010 Isk rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
One-sentence summary:
The graphical analogue of Elements of Style: obvious (avoid junk!), useless, contradictory, and wrong.

Don't understand the hype about this book; it's super outdated (refers mainly to hand-drawn-ish charts; and considering most of use standard tools to create our visualizations, not sure how we're supposed to actually implement his suggestions), and a lot of the advice and "good" examples (Marey's train schedule? Come on!) are horrible (and even contradictory -- at one point
This Is Not The Michael You're Looking For
Before going into the review itself, a comment on a slight oddity of the book (which will become important in the review): The copy I read is the 7th printing (March 2011) of the second edition (originally published in 2001; the first edition was published in 1982). The reason I bring this up is a discrepancy not mentioned anywhere in/on the book or on any website I could find. At least one chapter has been rewritten (or added) since the second edition was originally published. Chapter 8 contain ...more
Oct 03, 2014 Padraig rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: visualisation

It's good, I guess I’m knocking a star off because it focuses on paper-based graphs as opposed to computer ones (not really the fault of the book as it was first published in 1983).

The book is like the graph equivalent of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style. Where Strunk says ‘Omit needless words.’, Tufte says ‘Omit needless ink.’ (I’m paraphrasing). Despite concerning itself with paper-based graphs, the concepts still apply, and if I took one lesson from the book, it’s to let the data sh
Nov 10, 2011 Lindig rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I discovered Tufte when I was collecting movable books and this showed up in my bookstore with a pop-up pyramid in it. I found out later that he had self-published this title because no printer or publisher he approached wanted to do the pop-up and he was determined to have it.

It's a wonderful explication of the ways in which to analyze data and figure out how to present it in clean, efficient ways that slide the information into waiting minds.


And anybody who enjoys this book will lik
Michael Economy
Jul 02, 2010 Michael Economy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Michael by: Ken-ichi
Shelves: work-related
I'm imaging tufte writing up this rant in a basement with "we're not gonna take it" blaring in the background, every few paragraphs he mumbles something like "this will show them!" to himself.

Section two is pretty much the kind of five paragraph essay I was required to write in school. It's not very often someone makes an argument that hard.

Overall, this book is awesome, the book isn't 100% up to date, but the same complains with visualizations would still apply.

I'm all amped up to create lots o
Todd N
Aug 23, 2015 Todd N rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: big-data
Since I work for a business intelligence company I figured I might as well learn something about the grammar of data visualization. And this is definitely the Strunk and White of displaying data.

I especially liked the historical tour of data display. It showed how Snow’s map helped to end an cholera epidemic in England and prove that contaminated water was indeed the causative agent. And the famous graphic of Napoleon’s march to Moscow and back that makes the terrible loss of life very clear. It
Aug 05, 2010 Louis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arts, math-stats
The book goes through many examples of displaying information visually. And it does so through a historical context, reminding us that the issues that are faced and the many ways to (mis)-represent them have been around for centuries.

What I'm reminded of is that statistics and data analysis is not just about methods, but they are means of communication. And like all methods of communication, they can be made less clear whenever you have something other than clear communication as the goal.

Many o
Tony Boyles
Jan 01, 2016 Tony Boyles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
[Originally posted at]

I received a hardback copy of Tufte’s The Visual Display of Quantitative Information from my wife for Christmas, and amidst all the holiday celebrations and family visits, I didn’t get a chance to sit down with it until today. Having finally done so, however, I inadvertently consumed nearly the entire volume in a single sitting.

If you haven’t heard of him, Ed Tufte is regarded as something of a messiah to Data visualization. I had ne
Todd Stockslager
I returned to Tufte's first classic book of graphic design principles over 20 years after first discovering it. At the time, I was the corporate librarian for a major electric utility, and the explosion in the organization and creation of information by individuals with new personal-computer hardware and software was just beginning (I had an IBM PC-XT with 640Kb of RAM and two 360k floppies--no hard drive).

Now, I wondered, aside from the masterpiece of graphic design that "Visual Display" of cou
Mar 20, 2014 Mikal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The hallmark work on the display of quantitative information doesn't disappoint. While the book was likely a game changer when it was published, it's insights today while still valid have simply become adopted by designers and statisticians alike and has become general practice of good design.

That doesn't mean the book doesn't have value. It just means that in 2014, the book is four stars vs. the five it surely would have earned in another era.

The interesting point, is that while many of tufte's
Feb 07, 2014 Delos rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Are you a grad student who is about to write a thesis? I don't care what the topic is - make this book the next spot in your reading/research list. Then go back to working through your source material. Then open it again before you start actually writing, and again while you are tweaking your paper.

There are a few papers or books an advising professor may require you to read, or courses to complete, to help with thesis skills you'll need. I wish this had been on mine. It would have helped more
Mar 18, 2015 Dustin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reads quickly. I'll never design a graph the same way again.
Adam Zerner
- It's annoying how often the graph and the text commenting on the graph are on different pages.
- There's a big focus on developing the history of how design has evolved in the beginning. I'm not sure how relevant that is.
- I found it difficult to read a lot of the graphs, especially the older ones. A common theme was that the labels on the graphs were so small that I had to squint hard to read them.
- Also, a lot of the graphs were rather complex and require you to stop and think about them. Thi
Jan 07, 2016 Annuska rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hci
Matt Mills
Jan 29, 2016 Matt Mills rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Interesting the whole way through, with a historical review and practical advice. As someone who has made many charts it was eye-opening to realise how much redundant or misleading information we cram in without realising it, and how much more useful information can be compressed into a few dots, lines or carefully placed numbers. Plus it's pretty attractive looking and uses the Feynman-esque organisation of charts in the text and many sidenotes. For a book about stats graphics it works surprisi ...more
Nov 17, 2009 Margie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, data, series
Everyone should read this book. Although I am not yet adept at creating data-rich, well-designed visual displays of information (and frankly, I blame spawn-of-satan Microsoft), Tufte's books at least have taught me to recognize the inferiority of other's attempts (and the limitations of Microsoft's software).
Dec 19, 2011 Sally rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
A well-produced book, where for a wonder each graph and its accompanying text are visible together. Many interesting graphs; an initial discusion of history, the rest of the book being criticism. The author is expert but somewhat opinionated (never, ever use a pie chart?)
Feb 04, 2015 ^ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone using or working with numbers
Utterly superb. Utterly unmissable.

A book which also indirectly draws one's serious attention to the significant dangers of information LOSS in our computer age, because the incredible subtlety of information capable of expression via the medium of pen and ink on paper.

Feb 22, 2015 Angela rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It feels sacrilege to say this, but not only did I find this Classic Text of Data Visualization a complete bore, but I also disagreed with a lot of Tufte's principles! Uh oh. Is no one going to let me near a data visualization again? Hope not. But seriously. I'm surprised this remains the go-to graphic design book for social scientists, data scientist people, etc. It feels completely outdated, not only because it's more 1970s than a pair of huge Dan Aykroyd sideburns, but also because it's all a ...more
Jul 16, 2014 Cindy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Readability isn't as high as you would think - it's not like a textbook, but feels very high-brow/classy/cigar-in-mouth kind of way. It has a very high production value with very valid points. I mention the high-brow because Tufte uses random block quotes/poetry or calls some of his examples illustrating points "lies" or "tricks", which implies a malicious intent in the visual designer and kind of looks down on them. I don't really agree because design is so personal, doesn't seem fair to write ...more
May 16, 2016 Nathan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
From what I understand, this book is a classic for those wanting to create good graphics, but I did not really enjoy it. The author presents his ideas (which are usually good ones) as axiomatic, and does not give insight in to how the measures were thought of. I also found the descriptions of graphics a bit hard to follow, because there are no captions, and some text describes graphics on the following page. I don't think this book should be used as a reference, you really need to read the whole ...more
Neil Renicker
Feb 09, 2016 Neil Renicker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: design

"...the task of the designer is to give visual access to the subtle and the difficult—that is, the revelation of the complex.
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Edward Rolf Tufte (born 1942 in Kansas City, Missouri to Virginia and Edward E. Tufte), a professor emeritus of statistics, graphic design, and political economy at Yale University has been described by The New York Times as "the Leonardo da Vinci of Data". He is an expert in the presentation of informational graphics such as charts and diagrams, and is a fellow of the American Statistical Associa ...more
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“Above all else show the data.” 16 likes
“Allowing artist-illustrators to control the design and content of statistical graphics is almost like allowing typographers to control the content, style, and editing of prose.” 7 likes
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