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Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten
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Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  4,183 ratings  ·  38 reviews
Tables and graphs can more adequately communicate important business information when they reflect the good design practices discussed in this practical guide to effective table and graph design. Information is provided on the fundamental concepts of table and graph design, the numbers and knowledge most suitable for display in a graphic form, the best tabular means to ...more
Hardcover, 280 pages
Published September 1st 2004 by Analytics Press
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Average rating 3.88  · 
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 ·  4,183 ratings  ·  38 reviews


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Cassandralynn
Jul 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I use this book every day at work. Seriously. Every single day. It has the most simple explanations for why to use a table or chart and what it should look like. I say this is a must have for any data analyst and I wish more people in graduate school would take the time to hone this skill! Best book buy for me this year!
Flynn
Jul 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
A lot of data viz books cover the same topics, and that holds true for this book as well. However, I found two features quite novel:
- A dedicated portion of the book for building good tables, which are generally ignored in these books in favor of graph design
- Exercises to practice improving bad tables and graphs, which help reinforce important lessons

Overall, if you had to pick just one book to learn how to present data well, this would do the job very nicely.
Sakib
Nov 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I very much appreciate a lot of the content in this book: he gives a useful introduction to basic statistics, I enjoyed his explanation of visual perception, and the painstaking detail he's put into this book is apparent.

But I hesitate to give more than 4 stars for a few reasons. One: it's just too long in places. It goes into a level of detail that, for me, is just unnecessarily granular. It gets very boring and a little patronising in places. Two: I find it a little too dogmatic and
...more
Tom
Feb 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Excellent practical application of the principles espoused by Edward Tufte in his classic texts. Few takes Tufte's ideas and gives very practical adivce and guidleines on how to apply them for diaplysing data for best communications.

Highly recommended for anyone preparing tables or graphs for almost any purpose.
Michael Scott
Oct 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: design, math, art, compsci-tech
+++ Good overview of what we know about information visualization.
+++ Excellent references: Edward R. Tufte (design of graphs and visual information elements), William S. Cleveland (design and interpretation of visual information artifacts), Colin Ware (human perception and memory model associated with visualization), John W. Tukey (statistics). Also some good references, less known: Gene Zelazny (practical guidelines on charts and slideware), Jonathan G. Koomey (high-level process from data to
...more
Andrew Saul
Feb 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-posted
Simply an excellent resource whether you are looking to start to learn data visualisation, or looking to improve what you do now. I can not recommend it more highly.

The kind of book you find yourself going back to time and time again whenever you have a problem you can't quite work out, or you just want a bit of inspiration.

Ariadna73
Feb 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: data-analysis
I love this author. He is fantastic writing super-clear books and papers and neatly designed documents. I liked his advice; many of which were about what kinds of charts and graphics are definitely not useful; such as pies and donuts (only good for dessert). I put some of his pages in ariadna73's account in scribbd.
AJ
Jan 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book. This should be required reading for anybody who has to display information. Would be cool to see a chapter on presenting scientific data specifically.
Alex Leonov
May 21, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It is a horrible book. Starting from misinformation and bad advice, through the numerous unsubstantiated opinions posed as truth, to many outright idiotic claims and suggestions, this is one of the worst books I have ever read. More than that, applying many principles and suggestions from it is dangerous and can seriously harm the work you are trying to illustrate. Despite a few pieces of good advice that may make a positive impression, you should run away from this book as far as you can. If ...more
Sean
This book is a lot bigger than it needs to be. The pages are made of thick paper and the book is huge, but about 1/3 of it is white space. The best advice in the book is to go read Tufte's book. Most of the rest of the book is really obvious stuff, stated over and over. Fortunately, the information is correct, so if you don't know anything about making readable tables and charts, it's a good start.

Advanced charting techniques are either beyond the scope of the book or more generally outright
...more
Clifton Franklund
This is a terrific book on the graphic design of data presentation. I wish that I had read it much earlier. Now some of the graphs and tables in my already published work make me cringe a little. It has me also reconsidering most of my lecture materials.
Carmen Foglia
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a MUST for any person working with data.
This is my most valuable book for everyday work as a Data Scientist.
Shimona Hirchberg
Jul 10, 2018 rated it liked it
not the right book for my needs/interests, so just skimmed/flipped through
Ibraheem Qaed
Jun 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was my entrance for visualization and one of the best book that can give you the ground rules for displaying data in a proper and perceivable way.
Kalyan Tirunahari
Apr 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Clean and Crisp book on Visualization. Not only for Tech and Business but its good to understand that Less is more. The German Bauhaus Design principle, Perfection is not when you can't add anymore but when you can't take out any more.
Leslie Ann
Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: work-related
This awesome book is a must-read (and -buy) for anyone who has to design tables or graphs for work. Few's advice is accessible, practical, and supported by relevant examples. I will definitely include some of his points in my teaching.
Hilary
Dec 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's all about enabling you to choose the best medium to communicate your message, and learning how to understand the needs of your audience; a weak graphic or table will obfuscate the message whereas a targeted one will immediately drive home your point, without need for detailed explanation. It also helps you understand when to use a graph, and when to use a table. Some of this may be obvious, and some is obvious once pointed out (those "Of course!" moments occurred frequently for me), but ...more
Max Lybbert
May 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Few describes Show Me the Numbers as an introduction to making good, informative charts and graphs. Personally, I believe Few's charts and graphs are as informative as any that Tufte recommends. But Few goes into the nuts and bolts details, while Tufte generally shows examples and discusses the charts and graphs the same way an artist might discuss exhibits in an art museum.

Also, unlike Tufte, there is a good chance that you can learn something from this book, even if you've read some of Few's
...more
Lars
Aug 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is an absolutely fantastic book. It is fluff free, explained in a crystal clear manner, and full of advice that is nine times out of ten directly applicable to real-life work situations. The anti-Tufte, if you will. Yes, I went there.

At my job (banking analyst) I am exposed on a daily basis to output from internal and external equity and credit research departments. Most of the visual presentation is of a very amateurish standard, even from high-profile institutions. OTOH, when you do come
...more
amy francis
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
FANTASTIC books by Stephen Few on visualization. He's the master of clear and concise visualization techniques. I make a point to re-read all his books each year. The basic direction remains relevant years later. It certainly helps to be able to deliver quantitative solutions to end users that read like a book for them. Each department, each company, each division has distinct and unique reporting needs. They need to be able to slice and understand their data on their terms. This gives you the ...more
Blakely
Dec 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
A very useful, practical guide for improving your chart and table design.

Few outlines many practical ways to easily improve your data display. For example, when designing tables, if you want your readers to read horizontally first, increase the space between the rows. If you want your readers to scan vertically first, increase the space between columns. Perhaps it's common sense but this never occurred to me.

This is a great resource book to own and I'm sure I will be referring back to it often.
Manuel Frias
May 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: design, visualization
This book must be on my table every time I make a graph or table from now on. It is really sad that I didn't bother to read it earlier.

I like Few instructive style. He has strong opinions about the way some visualizations are made (read pie charts, for example). However, he really does an excellent job arguing why he thinks they don't work. When something works it is not (only) because he thinks he does but because there is a scientific research behind.
Travis
Jul 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: work
A very solid book. I'm a bit surprised by how much I enjoyed reading it as the subject matter is a bit dry. But it really speaks to what I do or hope to do in my job: clearly present useful, actionable information to my clients.

The book is clear, thought-provoking and very useful to anyone that does data analysis and has the need to present the data to others.
Genie
Great book laying out design principles for presenting quantitative information in tables and graphs. Sounds boring, right, but Few makes a lot of sense and it was good to move through it. Great reference too.
Aaron Dietz
Oct 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A quick read with a lot of images demonstrating the points being made.

A lot of this, of course, you will absorb from just working around people who have read Stephen Few, but it's a good foundational work and worth reading just to shore up any gaps.
Ji
Dec 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: technical
For a beginner like me on data visualization, this book is opening a door for me. Everything makes perfect sense, and is put together in a logical way. Highly recommendable as a introduction book to data visualization - or simply for fun!
Mark
Apr 12, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: statistics-etc
I probably have read too many of these kinds of books, Tufte, Wainer, Cleveland, Friendly, perhaps it is time to stop.
Vincentjones
Mar 17, 2012 rated it liked it
This book tells me how to design tables and graphs. It is hard to category this book: it will not be wrong to call it a book for designers rather than for scientists.
Michael
Oct 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A great example driven book on data presentation. Some duplication with Few's later work, but we'll worth picking up.
Percy M. Cannon
Jan 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
Good tips on how to simplify tables and graphs.
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