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Beautiful Evidence

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  2,131 ratings  ·  138 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 November 7th 2006 by Graphics Press LLC (first published July 2006)
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Average rating 4.15  · 
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 ·  2,131 ratings  ·  138 reviews

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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,
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 u
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:

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
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
Coop Williams
Aug 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
A good follow-up to reading 'The Display of Quantitative Information'. It's much less focused on solid rules of thumb and more meditative.
Mar 14, 2019 marked it as to-read
Evidence presentations should be created in accord with the common analytical tasks at hand, which usually involve understanding causality, making multivariate comparisons, examining relevant evidence, and assessing the credibility of evidence and conclusions. Thus the principles of evidence display are derived from the universal principles of analytical thinking - and not from local customs, intellectual fashions, consumer convenience, marketing, or what the technologies of display happen to
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
Jul 06, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: design
Another beautiful book about information design from one of the smartest guys in the field. Tufte continues to practice what he preaches in the design of the book— it looks, feels, and even smells like a book designed by someone with an incredible attention to every detail. As for the subject matter, much will be familiar to readers of his previous three books. There are some new illustrations, but more than a few have been used before. The essays are somewhat uneven-- I really enjoyed the chapt ...more
Sten Vesterli
Jan 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Our ever-increasing hoards of data provide less and less knowledge. Edward Tufte, "the da Vinci of data," shows how to present data in a way that allows the human brain to understand details and achieve insight. This is another beautifully illustrated book with many amazing examples - including a foldout with Minard's famous illustration of Napoleon's ill-fated Russian campaign. Everybody wanting to use PowerPoint should be required to read the scathing chapter "The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint ...more
Ken Lawrence
The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint

PowerPoint's convenience for some presenters is costly to the content and the audience. These costs arise from the cognitive style characteristic of the standard default PP presentation: foreshortening of evidence and thought, low spatial resolution, an intensely hierarchical single-path structure as the model for organizing every type of content, breaking up narratives and data into slides and minimal fragments, rapid temporal sequencing of thin information rat
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
Didn't know what to do with this book by the end; it's not a coherent set of ideas. It has some great stuff, as indeed much of Tufte's work has. I loved the first chapter and some of the stuff about art and perspective - though it wasn't what I was expecting from the book. But then it bounces around talking about sparklines (of which there is also a great deal in Tufte's first book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information), how awful Powerpoint is, and ending up with a random comment on ho ...more
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
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 for cr
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
Sep 26, 2017 rated it liked it
I actually enjoyed the book up to the point where the author started ranting about Powerpoint and then bragged randomly about his sculptures. He cherry picked some of the worse PPT presentation ever and made a general sweeping conclusion of how you should use MS Word for your presentation instead. Seriously though, no one really makes slides like that anymore, and you cannot blame the software for the presenter's laziness. It's just as horrible when people print out their papers and just read ou ...more
Dec 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
The chapter on ineffectual PowerPoint use was refreshing to see. At the same time, the recommendation to always use technical reports instead felt misguided, and the chapter failed to consider an audience who actively doesn't want to be there. While I can appreciate an opinionated author, this bordered on arrogance, an opinion reinforced by the inclusion of several pages of pictures of his own sculpture at the close of the book, ostensibly to show how sculpture can be a part of the landscape wit ...more
Oct 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: statistics-etc
The fourth of Tufte's series of books on the visual display of information. It is the most eccentric of the series and includes a moderate amount of recycled material from the previous volumes. There is remarkable vitriol in an amount that I think you can only see in a self-published book, with an illustrated non-anonymized attack on one economics professor's book, and a prolonged attack on Microsoft Powerpoint that refers to Stalin more than once. There are also, of course, many interesting thi ...more
Aug 22, 2020 added it
Tufte does tend to repeat himself across the canon, which I don't really mind so much necessarily since I always have this anxiety when I read about whether or not I really grasped what was being communicated.

I think what I most want to see is a Tufte megaindex that curates the canon and highlights the best place to go for various topics, e.g. Beautiful Evidence for sparklines, Visual Explanations for small multiples, Envisioning Information for managing colour.

I actually like Tufte's grumpy ran
James Traxler
Feb 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Such wonderful insight into how to **represent data** in the clearest and most explanatory way.

Tufte is clearly a clever thinker in this area - he roots out and explains successes and failures nicely.
It should be a required reading bible on subject in this day and age, where there is so much poor representation of data.

I was torn over whether to give 4 or 5 stars, but in the end, I was a bit less generous with the stars here as it dragged in a few places and felt like it could have been tightene
Gabriel Pinkus
“The English language... becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our languages makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.” - George Orwell

“... reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.” - Richard Feynman

“Pitching out corrupts within” - Edward Tufte on organizational public relations

“PowerPoint allows speakers to pretend that they are giving a real talk, and audiences to pretend that they are listening.” -
Clayton Grames
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A thorough look at what visual elements help to support data and what are mere distractions from it. There is something to be gained by anyone who has to communicate anything with more than just words. This book has become a new standard to judge my own communication by.
Feb 10, 2019 rated it did not like it
A beautiful, discombobulated mess. It perhaps works as a reference text but it is in no way legible in providing a narrative or clear information, destroying the central argument about beautiful evidence the author is seeking to make. Clearly self published, because who else would finance this?
Mar 31, 2020 rated it liked it
Another beautiful Tufte book and definitely worth skimming. But overall it’s hard to figure out its unique place amongst his other three. If you haven’t read any of his others, this will be better received, but if you have, you won’t find much new.
Jun 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: data-data-data
Absolute surprise. I knew of Tufte's reputation and yet unprepared for how big an exploration this book will turn out to be. Beautiful work of data and analysis.

And his damning critique of PowerPoint is just a cherry on top. Equal parts thought provoking and hilarious
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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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