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Beautiful Evidence

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  1,807 Ratings  ·  114 Reviews
Science and art have in common intense seeing, the wide-eyed observing that generates visual information. Beautiful Evidence is about how seeing turns into showing, how data and evidence turn into explanation. The book identifies excellent and effective methods for showing nearly every kind of information, suggests many new designs (including sparklines), and provides anal ...more
Hardcover, 213 pages
Published July 1st 2006 by Graphics Press LLC
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Austin Kleon
Jan 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The fourth of Tufte’s books, contains his devastating pamphlet on Powerpoint, which should be required reading for everyone. Come to think of it, all of his books should be required reading — in the age of pictures and words, they could take the place of freshmam composition...

My map of the book:

Mind-map of Edward Tufte's Beautiful Evidence
Jun 08, 2014 rated it did not like it
Having finished all of Tufte's books now, I would rate them as follows:

1) Visual Explanations
2) The Visual Display of Quantitative Information
3) Envisioning Information
4) Beautiful Evidence

"Visual Display" is the one everyone knows about, but I thought "Visual Explanations" had a far higher didactic value and was more courteous to the reader's interests. It is really the one I would recommend to people who are interested in Tufte's work.

"Beautiful Evidence" is by far the worst; it is a muddled,
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
Nov 11, 2016 rated it really liked it

Did anyone else notice that on p. 121, in the graph adapted from Carl Sagan, Tufte snuck in the Carolingian centaur (a tiny version of the large one featured on p. 84) alongside his regular animalia? "Other details below repay study," he winks.

On p. 179, the Table of Casualties listing causes and numbers of deaths in London from 1629-1660 is used to show how much information can be packed in, in contrast to a content-poor medium like PowerPoint. Just a few of the causes of mortality listed are:

Daniel Beck
Oct 04, 2016 rated it liked it
I have mixed feelings about Beautiful Evidence. When Tufte focuses on the details, he's practically sublime. The deconstruction of the map of Napoleon's march to Moscow is the highlight of the book. He takes this complex, interesting thing and breaks into pieces that are themselves complex and interesting. It's delightful.

But Tufte is prone to ranting and insults and in doing so he loses precision and insight. The chapter "The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint" is the low-water mark of the book, a r
Zach A.
Aug 07, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: die-hard Tufte fans only
Tufte is one of my intellectual heroes, so it's a little sad to see a book from him that I can't really recommend. It's as beautiful as ever, but the ideas don't cohere into a marvelously orchestrated framework as they do in Visual Displays of Quantitative Information.

Still, his brilliance and wit shine through in places, and for a Tufte fan it's still a worthy read. "Making a presentation is a moral act as well as an intellectual activity."

What Tufte has in common with other intellectuals I ad
Mar 20, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: design
ET (as he refers to himself) clearly has great insights on conveying information. Much of the content here--sparklines, multivariate charts, the necessity of hierarchy--is revelatory. However, the book is repetitive, discontinuous, polemical, and self-indulgent. What's his beef with star charts? What do sculpture pedestals have to do with anything? The snarky tone that sneaks in periodically ("PowerPoint Phluff") is neither funny nor appropriate in context. And for a book designed by a designer, ...more
Jul 17, 2016 rated it did not like it
Less and less seems to be at stake in each successive Tufte book; Beautiful Evidence falls more or less in incoherent vanity project territory. Yes, there are some gorgeous drawings and maps in here, and yes, I will be looking up that book about skiing the French way, but is PowerPoint design really "the hill you want to die on"? Increasingly put off by Tufte's central assumption that there are universal truths and that data are innocent until corruption by poor design. Stop trying to make spark ...more
Martyn Lovell
May 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
In this work, Tufte focusses as usual on great visual design, and relates it closely to how design can provide solid, reliable, uncorrupted information.

As always this is a great book, perhaps better than the others except his first (Visual Display of Quantitative...). I especially liked the detailed analyses of bad examples, and of good ones. He gives concrete advice, and in this book actually introduces a visual innovation (sparklines) which have turned out to be very useful in the real world.

Dave Emmett
Aug 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: design, 2010
Tufte really doesn't like PowerPoint.

I thought it was really sad that this book, like Visual Explanations, features a story about how a failure to accurately present information caused a disaster at NASA. In Visual Explanations it was the Challenger, and in this book it was Columbia. Sad that even years later NASA hadn't taken the lessons learned from the Challenger disaster and applied a more rigorous investigation of the evidence before concluding that Columbia was safe to re-enter.

One of my
Sep 06, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people who like typography, design, staticians, scientists...
Shelves: design-books
"Design cannot rescue failed content."

If you hate meetings that include PowerPoint presentations ("chartjunk") and know there must be a better way to present information- read this book. Though not his best, the chapter on PowerPoint alone is worth the read. I first heard about Tufte in a college statistics class and came across his name recently in an article for Wired magazine. This year Tufte was appointed to the Recovery Independent Advisory Panel to assist in providing transparency in the
May 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: design-type-etc
The beauty of Tufte's books comes up a lot in reviews. Yes, the paper is very nice. Yes, I appreciate the line length and margin proportions … but is that the point? Would Tufte say say it was (ok, he might well, but at least you could argue that back with what he's written)? In contrast I've got Kosslyn's book sat on my desk while i write this. Kosslyn's book is ugly. The cover is a design crime (despite the author reminding the reader that books are judged on their covers!), the page furniture ...more
Mesmerizingly studious analysis of design, both the good and the bad. The chapter "Fundamental Principles of Analytical Design" (on Minard's classic infographic depicting the demise of the French Grand Army in the Russia campaign of 1812-13) made Tufte famous, and deserves its encomia: its insights, enhanced by its own magisterial design as an essay/presentation, compel the reader throughout an excruciatingly detailed consideration of data. The chapter on sparklines is another highlight. While I ...more
Titania Remakes the World
Tufte shows how to examine data for quality and "truthiness". Tufte also shows how to "design" information to turn meaningless data into meaningful, usable information--which could improve your business communications to nuclear-strength, or help the war on "Fake News".

Due to the cost-cutting elimination of many fact-checkers and overseers of information quality & ethics in newsagencies, corporations, and schools, many people are losing important teachers and tools fo
Jun 20, 2017 rated it liked it
I like Edward Tufte. I appreciate his view on self exemplifying documents and the need for intelligent and beautiful design of information. I've browsed three of his large books: The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Beautiful Evidence, and Envisioning Information. While they are all beautiful books and very interesting, I can't help wishing they had a higher usability factor. He wants the reader to move slowly and study each example as he has, which has merit, to be sure, but the larg ...more
Gregory Peterson
Jul 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: design
No one knows information design like Edward Tufte, Yale professor and author of several extraordinary books. The New York Times called him: “The Leonardo da Vinci of data,” and that moniker may not be far from the truth.

In the wake of his three eminently successful and influential books on information design, the bar for "Beautiful Evidence" was high, indeed. As more than a few thoughtful reviewers have noted, "Beautiful Evidence" recapitulates some of those previous books' themes -- and so it m
Jul 30, 2015 marked it as skimmed
7/30/15: Skimmed most of the book but read the section on PowerPoint presentations more carefully. The examples with the Columbia and Challenger space shuttle disasters were both well-reasoned and sad. (Bottom line: the reductive thinking of a PP presentation is not sufficient to convey the nuance needed for tough decisions. It shouldn't replace a technical report.) More generally, it was a good reminder that PP is not an efficient method of communicating information because it "has the worst si ...more
Todd Stockslager
Jun 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Tufte's fourth in a series on visual data and its representation, following:

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, 2nd edition
Envisioning Information
Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative

The topic of the forthcoming fifth in the series ("walking, seeing, and constructing" ) is foreshadowed in the pictures of Tufte's landscape sculptures at the end of beautiful evidence.

If you are familiar with Tufte's other books, you already know the treat in store when you
Dec 07, 2008 rated it liked it
I read this book because of all the buzz on sparklines a few years ago.

I liked the emphasis on the power of the human vision system to process large amounts of data quickly. The focus here, then, is on high information density with as much context as possible. Tufte really likes figures right next to related text, or even within the text. He likes scales on pictures, or perhaps well-known objects for context. Also, information to convey statistical significance is also considered important, and
Keith McCormick
Oct 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is beautiful to look at. I think even the strongest critics would agree. For the record, I am glad I own this book.

The question regards practicality and truth in advertising. The author certainly does not deliberately mislead, but many readers of his books (or those who know his reputation), will be expecting a book focusing primarily on the display of data in graphics. Fully two thirds of the book addresses that topic. However, many readers will be surprised to find discussions of dan
Feb 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Two chapters in particular fascinated me - the chapter which focuses on taking inspiration from Renaissance texts by treating them as design manuals, and the chapter which evaluates PowerPoint as a tool (and, in sum, declares it unfit for purpose). There was a significant overlap with The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, but it addressed several elements that I thought were absent there - including, for instance, more emphasis on good design, and explaining why a particular design was ...more
Mar 25, 2013 rated it did not like it
Wow. I don't know the last time I read an author I disliked as much as Mr. Tufte. He manages to be arrogant, self-aggrandizing, and a blowhard all at once. This book must be titled ironically, because there is little to no beauty in it. Some of the examples of 'beautiful evidence' do meet the criteria, but others seem utterly unsupportive of the topic. And the content is ugly as well; it is disjointed, tangential, and not at all what I was led to believe the book was going to be about. There are ...more
Graham Herrli
Jan 03, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: design-related
It's been a while since I read this book, but I find myself often referencing one of its chapters, "The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within," so I decided it would be worthwhile to write a summary here. That chapter tells about a formal audit of communication within NASA after the 2003 Columbia disaster. The auditors determined that overuse of PowerPoint in lieu of whitepapers was largely culpable for the failure to respond to damage incurred by the shuttle during launch, ...more
Dec 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is the third of Edward Tufte's books I have read (the others being The Visual Display of Quantitative Information and Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative). I was happier about much of this book than the others, though there was carry-over material from them.

The layout of the book itself shows that Tufte practices what he preaches. There is little ambiguity and the text and images or graphs are crisp and interesting. There are chapters that act as good resource
Jan 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
What I enjoy most about Tufte’s books is his wide use of graphical material to present his subject. Take away the text, and the reader is left with an interesting art book that holds its own on any coffee table. However, on closer inspection, this book, like all of Tufte’s publications, is a statement on the effective presentation on data, and one of the more helpful business books around.

This book is interesting because the principles are distilled further. Show trends in the data in beautiful
Oct 14, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Designers
"Beautiful Evidence" the fourth of Edward Tufte's exquisitely designed and crafted books on the role of information as a design element in and of itself. I've seen Tufte speak once - before the publication of this book. He enthralled me and changed the way I think about my work in the field of graphic design.

For those of you who followed Tufte's work before "Beautiful Evidence" came on the scene, there is not much there you haven't seen. Tufte's previous treatises on sparklines and the negative
Feb 18, 2016 rated it liked it
(This is my February book for work.)

I enjoyed this most when he's discussing the presentation of quantitative data (e.g., sparklines), and least when he's dissecting what is essentially subjective (e.g., mapped pictures, Barr's art chart), and it starts sounding like McLuhan. He also tends to read as more mean-spirited and ridiculing in this book.

I had already purchased the "Cognitive Style of PowerPoint," which had been released prior to this book. I remember not liking it very much at the time
Stephen Wong
I made explicit use of the sparklines approach in analysing and presenting multi-layered time-series data. While I consider the outcome less elegant than what can be produced by a graphics package, just putting the picture of the numbers together was powerful. In later discussing what Beautiful Evidence can do for tamping down on speculative methods of analysis and easing on the conflicts that arise from where the problems lie, it also became apparent that what was produced was a snapshot of dat ...more
Oct 11, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: information, science
Much of what Tufte says, either in person at his seminars or in this book, feels groundbreaking. You feel like he's on to something, like he's got it all figured out where everyone else has it wrong. Just as you're coming around, however, he gets distracted. He got distracted halfway through his seminar, and all the sudden we were flipping through books from 1600 and talking about Richard Feynman, again. So too does Tufte get distracted in this book. Ironically, a little bit of outlining, heck, ...more
Feb 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
"Science & art have in common intense seeing, the wide eyed observing that generates empirical information. Beautiful Evidence is about how seeing turns in to showing, how impirical observations turn into explanations and evidence...evidence presentations are seen here from both sides: how to produce them and how to consume them."

Edward Tufte has written, designed and self published four books (this one in 2006) and he says to expect "at least a quintet". It's no wonder that they are self pu
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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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“PowerPoint is like being trapped in the style of early Egyptian flatland cartoons rather than using the more effective tools of Renaissance visual representation.” 9 likes
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