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Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative

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Few would disagree: Life in the information age can be overwhelming. Through computers, the Internet, the media, and even our daily newspapers, we are awash in a seemingly endless stream of charts, maps, infographics, diagrams, and data. Visual Explanations is a navigational guide through this turbulent sea of information. The book is an essential reference for anyone involved in graphic, web, or multimedia design, as well as for educators and lecturers who use graphics in presentations or classes.

Jacket design: Dmitry Krasny.
Other artwork by Bonnie Scranton, Dmitry Krasny, and Weilin Wu.

156 pages, Hardcover

First published February 1, 1997

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About the author

Edward R. Tufte

15 books633 followers
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 Association. Tufte has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Center for Advanced Studies in Behavioral Sciences.

Tufte currently resides in Cheshire, Connecticut. He periodically travels around the United States to offer one-day workshops on data presentation and information graphics.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 128 reviews
Profile Image for Bruce.
439 reviews72 followers
April 11, 2009
After I finished the first book in my exploration of Edward Tufte’s ouerve (The Visual Display of Quantitative Information), I wondered what more he could possibly have to say about the grammar of graphic design. And if the mere 138 pages of this his third book (discounting introduction and index) is any indication… not all that much. According to Tufte, “Visual Explanations is about pictures of verbs [his emphasis:], the representation of mechanism and motion, of process and dynamics, of causes and effects, of explanation and narrative.” (p. 10) Okay, so not just charts and graphs and otherwise pretty broad. But verbs?

There are only seven chapters here, and they are an extraordinary hodgepodge. They are:

(1) “Images and Quantities” (that is to say, tables and charts… been there, done that)

(2) “Visual and Statistical Thinking” - This turns out to be part interesting recap of Richard Feynman’s public dissection of the Challenger disaster and the politically-pressured murky evidence that NASA and Morton Thiokol conspired to generate that led to uninformed consent to launch, and part a series of fanciful variations along the lines of “what if John Snow didn’t have any idea what was causing cholera and drew ugly and misleading USA Today bar charts?” This is also interesting, if a bit more odd.

(3) “Explaining Magic” – For some reason, a look at a random selection of magic trick illustrations from a variety of historical sources, selected not for any clear grammar of presentation I could glean, but because Tufte likes them?

(4) “The Smallest Effective Difference” – A mere five pages and four illustrations showing why ‘less is more’ (again, been there, done that… literally, as he makes a point of recalling examples from his first book)

(5) “Parallelism” - a real mess of a chapter, ostensibly (and initially) about juxtaposition and comparison, and yet rambling off into a range of utterly unrelated (but intriguing!) examples from music (ranges of various instruments, interfaces from a Voyager CD-ROM on Beethoven’s 9th, a hand-drawn chart tracking the diversity of pop music from 1955-1975) and space (a cyclogram chart kept by the Salyut 6 cosmonauts) and typography (an exploration of Trajan’s engravers’ fonts). Hmmm.

(6) “Multiples in Space and Time” - repeat series of images, as in a comic panel, also covered by Tufte in his first book though with different examples here, and it has to be said parsed to much greater length, depth, clarity, and effect by Scott McCloud in his wonderful Understanding Comics; and last, but not least,

(7) “Visual Confections” - a Tufte neologism, which he defines as “an assembly of many visual events, selected… from various Streams of Story, then brought together and juxtaposed on the still flatland of paper.” (p. 121) He goes on from there, but it makes even less sense. In any case, he draws many of his examples from the worlds of art, signage, and science, and each of his selections coupled with extensive quotes and analysis made for entertaining, if a bit arbitrary reading.

This book offers no conclusion, it just ends, but on the bright side it won’t take up too much of your time. On the whole, I’d skip this one unless you’re a completist, a fanatic, or looking for a visual diversion to kill time while waiting for a buddy at the library (in which case, start with the last chapter and then jump to chapter two). There’s not much insight to be had here overall, but there’s lots to look at.

Stay tuned, I hear the library has another Tufte on hold for me.
Profile Image for Dan.
Author 2 books14 followers
December 16, 2008
This book was fun to read, but I took a lot less away from it than I did from The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. As usual, there's pages and pages of visuals that he does or doesn't like. But unlike TVDoQI, there's no theoretical framework to go with his opinions. Much of it is Tufte lampooning charts he doesn't like.

I found the chapters on magic and confections completely useless. The two ideas I took from this book:

- You should always ask yourself what point you're trying to make with a chart/visualization. Does everything in your design contribute to making that point?

- Negative data points (i.e. the absence of data or observations) are often just as important to include as the data itself.
Profile Image for Gang Lei.
7 reviews10 followers
October 27, 2019
Quite a nice book. There were one or two things that I haven't seen in other books so far, but I had a gut feeling that it's the right way to go. There were a couple of things that I am not really convinced about, but maybe it all depends on the context. All in all, I thnik it was well written and worth reading.
Profile Image for Brian.
638 reviews248 followers
September 8, 2016
(3.0) A few interesting insights, but he doesn't always practice what he preaches

The layout of his pages are often distracting, images all over the place, footnotes taking such a prominent place, difficulty of distinguishing footnotes from figure labels (some of which seemed actually absent?). In one case he even has a figure in a footnote.

The book starts off really well and then devolves a bit. The statistics, quantitative stuff are good, as is the discussion of parallelism and multiple figures. But then his language even becomes quite unprofessional (e.g. calling designs "dopey") when criticizing specific examples, which verges on graphic design critique...perhaps of value to some, but not to me and didn't feel like it belonged in this book. We can summarize: remove the noise from visuals.

He also seems to have a hatred for television, making frequent comments about print representations allowing the reader to dictate the pace (as opposed to TV where you just sit there and take it in at the pace of broadcast). Wonder now that we have DVRs if he still feels the same way? I have a feeling he does, but doesn't have this same excuse to fall back on. ;)

One thing I found immensely valuable, however, was a figure showing the various anatomy of type, labeling large letters with each typeface feature (e.g. lobe, loop, counter, half serif). I will refer to this many times, especially as I continue to dig a little deeper into typefaces and typography.

Also found it funny that I read two books back to back that spoke at length about the Challenger accident (other was What Do You Care What Other People Think?, which was actually cited quite heavily in this work). Tufte argues that it was the Thiokol engineers' fault that the launch proceeded, because though they had strong evidence that cold would result in disaster but didn't present the data well enough for NASA to see their side. He may have a point, as the analysis after-the-fact has far more to go on than the slides the engineers prepared. Seems a little skewed logic, however, as I still think that managers at Thiokol and NASA should've dug deeper if there were serious concerns.

I am interested in reading The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, however. The section on John Snow's study of cholera and the water pump and the Challenger evidence were really well thought out.
Profile Image for Vishal Katariya.
168 reviews15 followers
April 7, 2019
Eh. Not as good as Tufte's seminal work but still fun to read. I am a big fan of Tufte's style and philosophy. Much of the book, however, is stuff that Tufte likes and stuff that he doesn't. I suppose he's allowed to do that, but whatever. I found the chapter on magic tricks fascinating. It definitely seemed out-of-place, but it seemed an eccentric and fun choice.
Profile Image for Dave Emmett.
131 reviews29 followers
August 4, 2010
One of my profs in university had a saying: "No one dies on the internet", but after reading the parts of this book about the Challenger disaster, I'm starting to think our design decisions can have very serious repercussions for people's lives. The scientists who tried to prevent the launch of the Challenger couldn't sell NASA on the problem (o-rings break down at low temps, and it was cold when it launched), and so it launched and blew up. It isn't enough just to present data and hope people come to the right conclusions about it, data displays need to be shaped to address specific questions in order to help viewers understand the conclusions.

I loved this quote from Tufte: "Clear and precise seeing becomes as one with clear and precise thinking". If a visual information display isn't created with a clear purpose and to address an important question, it doesn't matter how pretty it is.

I've read two Tufte books now (this one and Envisioning Information, and I think I preferred this one, because of it's focus on quantitative data displays.
Profile Image for Jim Razinha.
1,250 reviews61 followers
July 31, 2021
Much much (another much because of the others?) more informative than either of the other two Tufte books I read. There is good value here as Tufte does a better job with his explanations. Yes, there is still tedium (please, enough with the history of serif!), but the contrasts of visualizations, the observations of problems with some graphics, and what makes good design of graphics … and what doesn’t … made the slog of The Visualization of Quantitative Information and Envisioning Information worth it.

Selected highlights that I noted:

By 1765, two dimensional plane representations were quantified and “available for measured data.” And yet… “Not a great many substantive problems, however, are exclusively two-dimensional. Indeed, the world is generally multi-variate.”
“Good design brings absolute attention to data.”

“To document and explain a process, to make verbs visible, is at the heart of information design.“

Tufte gave an extensive history of the London cholera epidemic on John Snow’s (who apparently did not know nothing), how his explaining data visually contributed to the solution, and some of the problems with Snow’s interpretation of the data that could not explain the epidemic and yet it still worked out.

On the Challenger investigation, Tufte describes problems with some of the visualization of those data… examples: test results not indicating conditions of the tests (static, not under stress), charts incomplete and with disclaimers, data order incorrectly. And on Feynman’s clarification of the link between temperature and the o-ring loss of resiliency, Tufte had this to say: “Although this link was obvious for weeks to engineers and those investigating the accident, various officials had camouflaged the issue by testifying to the commission in an obscurant language of evasive technical jargon.” This happens all too often and curiously, the administration of 2017-2021 demonstrated that technical jargon wasn’t even necessary… nonsensical mumbo jumbo served to obfuscate and infuriate commissions and discerning observers… but was devoured by the lowest denominator supporters.

Interesting epigraph:
Painting is special, separate, a matter for meditation and contemplation, for me, no physical action or sport. As much consciousness as possible. Clarity, completeness, quintessence, quiet. No nose, no schmutz, no schmertz, no fauve schvärmerei. Perfection, passiveness, consonance, consummateness. No palpitations, no gesticulation, no grotesquerie. Spirituality, serenity, absoluteness, coherence. No automatism, no accident, no anxiety, no catharsis, no chance. Detachment, disinterestedness, thoughtfulness, transcendence. No humbugging, no button-holing, no exploitation, no mixing things up.
Ad Reinhardt, statement for the catalog of an exhibition, 1955. Reinhardt put more definition into his description than in his blue locks on blue canvases. Tufte said, “Ad Reinhardt’s paintings, rely on such vaporous distinctions [two adjacent colors appearing almost exactly alike], with some gradations revealing themselves only after many minutes of focused viewing. This is fine for art, but not for data.” Over the years, with coaching and reading, I have learned much that has shifted me from “that’s not art” to an understanding that some things are art, but Reinhardt’s work is a stretch for me. So I agree with Tufte that rather “that operating at such an exquisite threshold of perceptual acuity, data display must be clear, assured, reliable sturdy.”

I love his title of Chapter 7… “Visual Confections: Juxtapositions form the Ocean of the Streams of Story”.
Profile Image for Rossdavidh.
507 reviews143 followers
September 22, 2015
Subtitle: "Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative"

Edward Tufte's books are, not surprisingly given his chosen specialty, immensely
satisfying just to leaf through. The paper is high quality, the figures are
pleasant to look at, and the layout is thoughtfully done. Which is good, because
if you're going to make a book on (or a career out of) the study of how to make
effective figures, you'd better be able to demonstrate your skills in the book.

The best story in this book is Tufte's examination of the failed attempts by
engineers at Morton Thiokol to convince NASA not to launch the space shuttle
Challenger. All of Tufte's examples are about attempts (failed or successful)
to convey information to others through charts, diagrams, and other figures, but
the fact that lives were at stake gives this particular case make it especially

As Tufte points out, it was in no one's interests to launch the shuttle and see
it blow up; it's not as if the NASA management had nothing at stake. Quite to
the contrary, the decision to launch caused the federal government to scale back
considerably its expectations for the Space Shuttle. However, although the
engineers had the information necessary to make the right decision, and they made
an attempt to communicate it to NASA, they failed to convince them. Why is that?

This is the topic of nearly every story in Tufte's book, and it hammers home the
point that knowing the facts is not enough to achieve the objective, if you do
not know how to communicate that so that the reader understands. It is a point
which is not often enough stressed in a typical engineer's career, which is
surprising because much of it boils down to a concept which is well understood
in much of engineering: signal/noise ratio.

Every pixel or dot on your figure, is either part of the signal (what you are
attempting to communicate), or it is noise. Adding more data, which is not
directly related to what you are attempting to communicate, does not make your
point better, it makes it less likely for the audience to receive the signal.

Tufte goes through other historical examples, famous (e.g. the Broad Street Pump
which was the source of a cholera epidemic in Victorian London) or not (manuals
on how to do magic tricks made in the time before video). There is an oddly
calming and restorative quality to just paging through the book, and Tufte moves
from one century to another, and one field to another, to show that the principles
of using figures effectively transcend any one discipline.

The central challenge of our time is not getting data (we have more of it than
ever before), but comprehending it. Tufte's book addresses this in a way that
has never been equaled.
Profile Image for Graham Herrli.
96 reviews67 followers
December 21, 2012
Tufte makes the claim in the introduction to this book that his books approach visual displays of information differently, that this book is about "pictures of verbs the representation of mechanism and motion, of process and dynamics, of causes and effects, of explanation and narrative", while The Visual Display of Quantitative Information was about pictures of numbers.

However, I found this book to be too similar in content to the other two books I've read by Tufte (the third being Beautiful Evidence ). Many of the examples used here were also used in the other books, so if you've already read The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, you'll probably not get much out of this book. Visual Display's better, so I'd recommend reading it instead.

Some things I did find in this book are:
Profile Image for  TheGriffinReads.
31 reviews9 followers
March 29, 2011
Like the apology for good manners in a book of etiquette, Tufte describes the goal of visual information as to make verbs visible. Information display should document, compare, show cause and effect, explain, quantify, contain multivariate data, explore and exercise skepticism. Though the design of the book itself has little specialty, the examples and explanatory text are fascinating. Analyses of data from the producers of the shuttle Challenger to investigatory organizations and the documents presented to congress in regards to the shuttle's failure show the devastating effect of poor information design, and make me feel for the engineers who probably don't sleep well still. An upgrade of Ad Reinhardt's explanation of artistic styles shows the dramatic advantage of effective design. Finally, the most eloquent design, that engraved on the Pioneer spacecrafts that were sent out of the Solar system.

At times dense and forbidding, and at times incomplete, Tufte's explanations of poor design can frustrate. Overall the book seems a little disconnected and mimics my response to manga and anime; I always get the feeling that I don't quite get what is going on, though explanations always prove that what I think is what is happening. Tufte creates the same impression. Nonetheless, much of the book is delightfully informative and engaging, particularly the final section regarding Visual Confections.

Highly detailed and jargonistic language and dense data presentations will challenge all but the most dedicated readers; however, the patient and dogged will create more effective data presentations by following Tufte's advice.
Profile Image for Dewey Norton.
Author 2 books5 followers
July 23, 2009
Superb read along with Tufte's others. After reading all three published up to that time, I attended one of Tufte's public seminars which was outstanding. I met Tufte in graduate school about 1970, when I invited him to come over from Princeton to Penn to speak to a graduate students association of which I was president. I was pleasantly suprised at how many faculty members showed up. Tufte's reputation was growing rapidly.

He is undoubtedly the greatest writer ever on how to analyze and display information. His books are works of art as well as great science.
February 7, 2015
my professional life can be divided in two: before and after this book (also all other books by Edward Tufte). if you are into visual design, web design, interaction design, any design, read those. from a rating of 1 to 5, it's 50. really.
btw, after reading it, any other book is usually a disappointment. i mean at least from the look and feel and easy understanding.
Profile Image for Margie.
644 reviews37 followers
November 17, 2009
Not as good as "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information" but worth reading. The section on the decision to launch the space shuttle Challenger is very worthwhile, and can be recommended as a case study for anyone who ever has to either base a decision on data or present data.
Profile Image for Leonard Houx.
131 reviews29 followers
September 9, 2012
I am so glad I read this book. Tufte dissects beautiful, fascinating and humorous illustrations in impeccable prose. *Visual Explanations* not only taught me a great deal about visual design, it taught me a great deal about presentation in general. I look forward to implementing these insights.

Profile Image for Fred Grogan.
81 reviews
March 11, 2022
The first book in his three book series on innovative visualization of data and statistics
Profile Image for Dórian Bachmann.
Author 5 books
March 13, 2021
Edward Tufte é um estatístico famoso pelas técnicas para apresentação de dados e informações, tendo muitas publicações sobre o tema. Neste livro ele descreve estratégias para representar movimentos, processos, mecanismos e relações de causa e efeito.

Ele mostra a evolução das representações gráficas ao longo da história e, inclusive, o provável primeiro gráfico com representação estatística de distâncias, além de diversas outras curiosidades.

Tufte enfatiza que más apresentações gráficas são um problema ético. Isso não significa que ele exija realidade nas imagens, mas que qualquer distorção deve ser informada com o devido destaque. Aliás, ele até apresenta a distorção de escalas como um mecanismo válido para a análise de dados.

Para exemplificar, ele apresenta em detalhes as análises que levaram a identificar a fonte da cólera em Londres em 1854 e o acidente com o ônibus espacial Challenger, que já havia explorado no livro Beautiful Evidence. Naquela publicação, ele fez uma análise das causas básicas do acidente que provocou a explosão do ônibus espacial, matando 11 pessoas e trazendo um prejuízo enorme à reputação da NASA. Ainda comenta as diferentes visões e explicações dos administradores, psicólogos e engenheiros que tentaram explicar os fatos que levaram à catástrofe.

Destaca, ainda, que embora a sequência temporal seja a mais adequada para analisar as tendências, não é uma boa prática para a análise de relações entre variáveis. Tufte exemplifica brilhantemente essa questão com a discussão sobre um gráfico usado para investigar o acidente com a Challenger, em que os dados, plotados na sequência histórica, dificulta perceber a relação entre temperatura e falhas dos anéis de borracha (o-rings) para vedação. São exemplos interessantes que contribuem para aumentar o espírito crítico do leitor.

Alguns destaques do texto:
• Ausência de evidência não é evidência de ausência.
• Criar ilusões ou mágicas é engajar-se no design da desinformação, corromper a conexão óptica, enganar o público. Assim, as estratégias da magia determinam o que não fazer se seu objetivo é revelar a verdade, e não criar ilusões.
• Como mágicos, quem faz os gráficos revela o que deseja revelar.
• A lógica dos gráficos deve seguir a lógica da análise.
• Gráficos ruins indicam estupidez estatística, assim como uma escrita pobre geralmente reflete pensamentos pobres.
• Raciocinando sobre causalidade, variações na causa devem ser explicita e mensuravelmente ligadas às variações no efeito.
• Faça todas as distinções visuais tão discretas quanto possível, mas claras e efetivas. Quando tudo é enfatizado, nada é enfatizado.
• Nos gráficos, um arco-íris de cores confunde o que acontece com as cores com o que acontece com os dados.

Este livro é uma leitura útil para quem tem a responsabilidade gerar gráficos e interpretar informações.
Profile Image for Andrew Dale.
47 reviews16 followers
June 5, 2017
I think it's going to be difficult for me to divorce this review from those I've written for Edward R. Tufte's other books. After attending one of his in-person seminars, I decided to work through the four books that were included as a part of the ticket price, in chronological order. This the third one, which he sums up in the Introduction as being about "pictures of verbs", as opposed to The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, which explores "pictures of numbers" and Envisioning Information, which introduces "pictures of nouns".

First, one cannot help but notice from the start that the book is beautiful, and a pleasure to read. Each page is chock full of interesting images and the prose is typically erudite, although it does get a bit esoteric towards the end.

Second, I will say that Chapter 2's excellent narratives and analyses of John Snow's cholera epidemiology maps, and the data behind the decision to launch the doomed Space Shuttle Challenger mission, are the obvious core of the book. These are some of the best and most practical extrapolations of Tufte's thoughts on how data visualization ought to be done that I have seen.

That said, the rest of the book is kind of hit or miss. As in the previous two books, there are some fascinating tidbits, but the organization and themes behind the remaining chapters leaves a little to be desired. It doesn't take long to finish them, but we have seen a lot of the themes and even examples before in his previous books, which makes me think they perhaps ought not to have been included.

I would say that this book is worthwhile for the epidemiology and Challenger episodes, and also maybe as a coffee table book, but it doesn't stand out enough to be recommended over either of the first two. That may be, of course, why he provides it as part of a set of four.
233 reviews18 followers
May 13, 2022
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information
(1983) Cheshire, Connecticut: Graphics Press

Envisioning Information
(1990) Cheshire, Connecticut: Graphics Press

Visual Explanations
(1997) Cheshire, Connecticut: Graphics Press

Do you create and present data summaries to better understand or represent the world around you (do you receive such summaries)? Read one or all of the Tufte Data Trilogy (individual titles above) and, inevitably, you will become more conscious and deliberate in designing your own presentations and in seeing the designer elements of the presentations of data that you are asked to absorb!
These volumes can each be read as independent and stand-alone volumes, or as a trilogy attacking the basic questions of how to encapsulate the 'blooming, buzzing confusion' of life into comprehensible capsules of meaning and explanation that we can use to orient ourselves and others along the journey.
Let Tufte, himself, summarize the essence of each of the volumes in this trilogy, and the relationship between them: "My three books on information design stand in the following relation:
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information is about pictures of numbers, how to depict data and enforce statistical honesty.
Envisioning Information is about pictures of nouns maps and aerial photographs, for example, consist of a great many nouns lying on the ground). Envisioning also deals with visual strategies for design: color, layering, and interaction effects.
Visual Explanations is about pictures of verbs, the representation of mechanism and motion, of process and dynamics, of causes and effects, of explanation and narrative. Since such displays are often used to reach conclusions and make decisions there is a special concern with the integrity of the content and the design." (Visual Explanations, p. 10)
Profile Image for Titania Remakes the World.
105 reviews5 followers
Want to read
June 28, 2017
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 critical thinking ie. being able to tell or comprehend "real truths" versus "fake" information. This affects everybody's freedom (that we really DON'T think to protect) by manipulating the public, voting, and whether they can protect themselves from fraudsters.

eBook found at: Internet Archive Open Library which works in partnership with public libraries: https://openlibrary.org
157 reviews
December 16, 2020
The troublesome part of Visual Explanations (and all of Tufte's books really) is that it's so pleasurable you forget that you're supposed to be learning something. As distinct from the other two books in the series, Visual Explanations focuses on the manner in which images can tell a story and thereby render "reading and seeing and thinking identical". The images selected for the book are delightful and engaging - I've never before wanted to hang a data chart on my wall for the sheer artistry of it! Though it should be noted that Tufte has forever dispelled any remaining belief I harbored in magic.

As a series, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Envisioning Information and Visual Explanations largely cover the same material - some illustrations are even discussed in multiple books - and the differences are really a matter of the degree of emphasis. If they weren't all so enchanting my advice would be to just pick one, but... they're just THAT good.
Profile Image for TΞΞL❍CK Mith!lesh .
298 reviews148 followers
October 17, 2020
Edward Tufte is infamous in the Data Visualization world and considered the Single Source of Truth on how to visually present information.

Tufte has written multiple books, so it's hard to know which to pick up. In his own descriptions:

The Visual Design of Quantitative Information is about depicting numbers

Envisioning Information is about depicting nouns, and includes design strategies like colour, layerings, and interaction

Visual Explanations is about depicting verbs - representing motion, process, dynamics, cause, effect, explanation, and narrative.

Tufte sets out to teach us a series of design strategies - "the proper arrangement in space and time of images, words, and numbers - for presenting information about motion, process, mechanism, cause and effect"
Profile Image for Tea73.
264 reviews
September 16, 2022
The first Tufte book I ever read blew me away. This was sadly had many repetitions from the earlier works. That said it's just about a perfect bathroom book. You can read it a couple of pages at a time easily. My favorite bits are when he shows a really bad design and then shows how he would improve it. I was totally bored by the chapter on illustrating magic tricks. The chapter on what he calls "confections" was odd, but I was mesmerized by the compartmentalized illustrations that were apparently a fad in the 17th century. As others have pointed out, for a guy who cares about design it is odd that the footnotes are given such prominence.
Profile Image for John.
69 reviews1 follower
January 22, 2017
I got a lot less out of this than I did from The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, which is to say still a fair amount. I thought it was an enjoyable read nonetheless and certainly worth spending a few evenings on. The main thrust of the book seemed to be that it's important to show the reader information in a way that maximally enhances their understanding. Beyond that there's a list of examples of what to do and not do, and I'll remember those down the line when I'm looking at or making pictures.
Profile Image for ill.gamesh.
46 reviews44 followers
January 2, 2023
I now have opinions about the results of my google image search for "gastrointestinal tract".
For example, the lines labeling the organs in most of the images are too thick, distracting from the main content, the anatomical depiction itself.

I'm an artist making diagrammatic color drawings, and Tufte taught me things that will improve the clarity and impact of my drawings.

If you like data visualization and the book 100 Principles of Design, you'll enjoy this.

I ordered the other two of his three main books, looking forward to seeing how those compare to Visual Explanations.
219 reviews9 followers
March 30, 2020
El tercer libro de Tufte está centrado la visualización de información como medio de comunicación. Oscila entre capítulos magistrales al nivel de "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information", como el segundo -el dedicado a la visualización de datos para toma de decisiones- y otros mucho más caprichosos -el de la explicaciones para la magia, el de la composiciones visuales-. Eso sí, siempre riguroso, elegante y con un exquisito e inspirador sentido del diseño.
Profile Image for Gabriel Pinkus.
154 reviews54 followers
October 8, 2020
"Although we often hear that data speak for themselves, their voices can be soft and sly." - Frederick Mosteller, Stephen Feinberg, and Robert Rourke, Beginning Statistics w/Data Analysis

"As for a picture, if it isn't worth 1,000 words [or more], the hell with it." - Ad Reinhardt

"When everything is emphasized, nothing is emphasized." - Edward Tufte
96 reviews
November 11, 2020
Some interesting and thought-provoking points in here, though not as many and not as coherent as the "Visual Display" book. If you can get past the non sequitir art opinions and references. And corrections of others' errors that themselves contain errors despite the book having gone through 11 printings. Finally, comments on computer display resolutions are very outdated.
Profile Image for Chris Webster.
38 reviews2 followers
October 7, 2021
The chapter on the Challenger explosion should be required reading for everyone who has to present data in any shape or form. The rest of the book is just OK, a little too theoretical and strange. But the Challenger chapter is one of the most informative and valuable things I've ever read, and will stick with me forever.
Profile Image for Imaduddin Ahmed.
Author 1 book29 followers
August 21, 2022
People who exclusively write tend to lose their generalist abilities to communicate with the use of images as we used to, for example, when we wrote stories as children. This book illustrates how visual information and statistical analysis are conveyed well and poorly and is an invitation to writers to give more thought to how to communicate on paper beyond the written word.
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