Envisioning Information - Edward R. Tufte

(borrowed from Nate)
This is the third in a "trilogy" by Tufte, a Yale professor of "statistical evidence and information design." It's a beautifully designed (of course) book which describes some of the challenges and methods of displaying complex information on a flat surface. He covers subjects from cartography to dance step notation to timetables, with excellent examples of each (as well as samples of poor designs). Some of the techniques he describes are nothing new, but there were a few ideas I hadn't come across before. In particular, the graphical timetables and stem-and-leaf notations both seem to be vast improvements over the regular bus/train schedules that I'm accustomed to, and it's a shame they're not more widespread.

Another pleasant feature of the book is that you never have to turn the page to finish a sentence: the page layouts are precisely designed to conclude the paragraph by the end of the spread, moving on to a new example or subject on the next page. It surprised me each time it happened, as I've developed the habit of preparing to turn the page when I near the bottom (and often flipping back to re-read the first half of a sentence).

I don't know how much I will personally use from the book—there's not a lot of data-presentation I'm responsible for—but hopefully I'll have a better appreciation for good design in the future.

Fed to jonathan's brain | April 17, 2004