Envisioning Information
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317 of 321 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 2000
To me, this is Tufte's best book, although they are all really good. Although its visually gorgeous, its not a coffee table book to just flip through. You have to be willing to spend time with it, and if you do the rewards are tremendous.
Tufte presents a collection of some the best examples of information design ever invented, and some of the worst examples. And then he goes into the underlying principles that make the great ones sing out.
This book will be really helpful to any web page designer, UI designers, statisticians, cartographers, scientists, or anyone concerned with presenting dense information in a clear way.
There is a chapter on presenting multiple dimensional data on a flat, 2D paper that all by itself is worth the price of the book. Then there's the chapter on "Small Multiples" which presents wonderful examples of how to show patterns and changes. But then there's the chapter on layering of information, so the key pieces of data appear first, and the less relevant ones reveal themselves later. And on and on and on. Its just a great book.
To add to it, Tufte is obsessed with quality like nobody else I can think of in the book business. Its printed on 100% rag paper using real lead type because he thinks that all other methods are inferior. Which means the book is costly to make, but its of heirloom quality.
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95 of 97 people found the following review helpful
on August 5, 1998
Envisioning Information is Tufte's best work. It is a catalog of world class information design examples, culled by the author. He has collected examples from sources as diverse as Gallileo's observations of Saturn, a 3D map of a Japanese shrine, a visual "proof" of Pythagoras' theorem, color studies by the artist Joseph Albers, and a New York train schedule.
This is not a "how to" book, but rather a group of inspiring examples showing any would be information designer the concepts behind the execution of these superb examples.The concepts are painstakingly argued and illustrated. Tufte is obsessed with quality - the book is printed on 100% rag paper using old fashioned lead type because he believes this yields the highest quality results. One of the best books I have ever read when it comes to visual design!
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103 of 109 people found the following review helpful
Edward Tufte sees things most of us do not initially, then manages to render his vision in exquisitely illustrated, well-written texts. He identifies the attributes of effective communication of information and then illustrates what works and why in very understandable terms.
For instance, in his chapter "Layering and Separation," Tufte dissects the problems with array of marshaling signals then reworks the presentation and provides a step-by-step explanation of his process. His coining of the wonderful notion of an "information prison" shows that his cleverness extends from the visual to the written.
As Tufte writes in his introduction, "The principles of information design are universal-like mathematics-and are not tied to unique features of a particular language or culture." He proves this point amply by drawing on myriad sources and examples.
His comments and insights of the power of color are especially enlightening, and if you have ever been subjected to a particularly hideous PowerPoint slide show where the presenter got more than a bit carried away with the technology, you will be agreeing more than disagreeing with the ideas here.
Finally, I acknowledge there is bound to be some sticker shock associated with Edward Tufte's books. But if you consider the amount and quality of color (which requires special press runs), the quality of the paper, the amount of press time (Tufte oversees and approves the printing), and the vast scope of timeless information contained in each book, then these books are a deal.
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45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2000
In the first book in this series "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information" we were introduced to some pretty clever ideas for presenting numbers using different types of graphs. This time, Mr. Tufte takes us on a journey through time and information space: Using carefully selected examples on graphic communication from all parts of the world, the reader is introduced to essential concepts as: Layering techniques; The use of colour to convey information; Multidimensionality in two dimensions; etc. It is amazing that just about 100 pages is all it takes to deliver a clear and strong message. But, as usual, Mr. Tufte do not waste his words on chit chat, but instead chooses his words carefully with loads of understated humour. Thereby the words themselves are a manifest of the message in this book and at the same time they become the invisible glue that connects the superbly chosen and superbly rendered illustrations which set the standard for the rest of us.
If you can afford only one of the three books by Edward Tufte, then chose this one. The other books in the trilogy, being masterpieces themselves, could be considered being complementary reading.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
This is the second book in Ed Tufte's trilogy on graphical displays. It is a sequel to "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information". In this book Tufte shows how color, multiple pictures from different perspectives, graphs, charts and even newspaper text can be used to convey on a flat piece of paper information for high-dimesional data.

Most important is the ability of two-dimensional pictures to display the information of the three dimensional world that the human mind can comprehend through sight. This is the reason for the title to the first chapter "Escaping Flatland".

However, as interesting as the pictures are themselves it is necessary to read the text and look back and forth between pictures to fully appreciate the points of the text. As with his earlier work, Tufte demonstrates the principles of good graphics through effective demonstration of ideas conveyed by good and bad examples. The difference is a broader coverage of techniques and greater emphasis on the good examples.

This book is a nice lead in for the third book, "Visual Explanations", which deals with examples where Tufte believes the graphical displays actually lead to good inferences about a problem under study.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2002
ENVISIONING INFORMATION represents one volume within a set of three. The primary objective of Edward R. Tufte is to demonstrate the importance of graphic illustrations in understanding the world around us.
In this volume, the central focus is to demonstrate how one can use static and a two-dimensional surface (i.e. a piece of paper) to show a world that is complex, dynamic and multidimensional. The illustrations that he selects and his explanation of the impact of the illustrations is nothing less than magnificent. Tufte is brilliant! Unlike the other two volumes, the centerpiece of this work is mapping. He addresses various artistic principles that offer a great clarity in guiding a scholar to reproduce distance and shapes. I draw your attention to page 37. Here, we see a small piece of an "Isometric Map of Midtown Manhattan." The author gives us an opportunity to purchase the entire map. I purchased the map for a close friend who calls Midtown Manhattan "home." It isn't merely a map; it is a beautiful piece of art. According to the author, these mapping principles can be generalized to serve other functions. For example, such techniques can be used to provide dance notations (see page 114-119). That is, Tufte shows us how we can employ illustrations to teach people how to dance.
All of Tufte's three volumes are pieces of artwork. All are awe-inspiring. ENVISIONING INFORMATION is slightly different than the other two volumes. I like to use Tufte's work as an example of how graphics can be employed to illustrate qantitative information to students.
Every academic library should own a copy of these three volumes.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2002
i worked in bookstores for years, i am an avowed bibliophile and here is the one that got away - until now!. yes this is part of a set of three...but you can figure that out yourself. this is an essential edition fo anyone who loves cartography (a la How to Lie with Maps /Monmonier kind of cartography), statistics, art, complexity, symbolism, cognitive science etc - you name it this book has it. It does require that you revel in the concept and manifestation of representation. I believe that it is possibly one of the most beautiful science books around - and it often transcends any definition of a "text" book.
the entire book offers endless brain-fodder for the meaning and impact of the word "vision". The complexity of the subject(s) is given justice in this book - with both beauty and fun!! I was delighted to have been a late comer to this title but now i have to go fully read Tufte's Political Control of the Economy (1980)....if only i had known ten years ago that Tufte was so fantastic, engaging, diverse, and accessible!!
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2000
This book as a "must-have" for any usability design engineer. While it is not a book that focuses specifically on usability design per se, all of the concepts covered in this insightful volume are extremely useful in designing human-computer interfaces. Moreover, since this is a book on information design, it is also a treasure trove of knowledge critical when designing in many other visual mediums such as those found in the world of print media. Throughout the engaging narrative, Tufte draws on many interesting historical examples of successful and unsuccessful attempts at visual communication including everything from astronomical charts to train schedules.
A masterpiece in visual communication itself, the reams of useful knowledge in this book are brought together in a remarkably concise and coherent package, interspersed with beautifully illustrated examples and narratives. The physical book itself is of notable quality, a hallmark of any of Tufte's publications. My only criticism is that the format of this book (0.89 x 10.81 x 8.90) make it a little unwieldy - a pretty moot point, however.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
In "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information", Edward Tufte put forth a theory of graphical excellence which taught his disciples how to present complex data crisply, clearly, and concisely while preserving data integrity.
With "Envisioning Information", Tufte tackles a bolder objective: displaying multi-dimensional data effectively within the two-dimensional space of paper or screen.
To do this, Tufte employs his successful formula from "Visual Display"---outlining the general concepts of his theory and illustrating these principles with many and varied examples.
Tufte's approach to "escaping Flatland" (as he calls it) is simple but richly-illustrated:
- Employing the concept of micro/macro readings to add resolution to data displays, conveying more information in a smaller space
- Using layering and separation to foster comprehension of multivariate data
- Utilizing small multiples to convey change over time
- Leveraging color to convey information
- Weaving narratives of space and time
The effect upon the reader is staggering and transformative. Tufte has revised and extended his theory of graphical excellence with a handful of simple yet powerful techniques for improving our presentation graphics.
Anyone involved in graphics design or in the communication of complex information should have this book on his shelf---it is simply too valuable to keep having to borrow it from your public library.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 2006
An outstanding addition to my library, Edward systematically explores the presentation of data showing the value of data rich content when it is properly displayed. After reading half the book, I couldn't sit through a presentation without coming up with at least 3 ways to improve it. The illustrations in the book are beautifully rendered and cover a diverse set of subject matter each as interesting as the next. The only topic concerning this book that I struggled with is whether or not to mark it up. In the end, as I do with all of my books I intend to refer back to, I did.
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