Edward Tufte is a writer, statistician and professor. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information is one of four books he has published. It is a book purely dedicated to visualization, which is pretty cool. I have come across his name in several forums and he has been refered to as “The godfather of visualization”. Pretty strong words, so expectations where perhaps a bit too high when I finally got to read this book. I think I subcontiously pictured the more carismatic Hans Rosling (but that was not the case).
I will start off with a soft warning: This is not light reading. Perhaps you can tell from the title. You need time to digest and re-read some of the parts, in order to fully grasp everything. Or at least I had to.
The first chapter is actually a history lecture in visuals. World-class examples from previous centuries on how to display quantitative information — grafical excellence. Tufte then moves over to the opposite side and discuss examples where visuals are used to manipulate the reader — lacking any graphical integrity.
An excellent graphic displays complex information in a simple and easy manner. The reader should understand the data in a few seconds, and get as much ideas as possible from the visualization.
Part two of the book introduce a new term, data-ink ratio. Tufte suggest to focus on using a large share of your graphic’s ink to display your actual data. Review gridlines, frames, boxes and so on with a critical mind. Can part of the grafic be trimmed without any relevant information being lost?
Other newer designs that I will try is range-frame, dot-dash-plot, a white grid (rather than the traditional black), quartile plot and half face.
A simple tip in the last chapter is to follow your data when choosing type of graphs, and move towards using horizontal graphics (easy on the eye) that is 50% wider than tall.
I feel it is a book worth reading, but it is a bit to heavy in how the information is presented. I will give it 4/6.
I bought my copy at Amazon (affilate link).