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Semiology of Graphics: Diagrams, Networks, Maps 1st Edition

14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1589482616
ISBN-10: 1589482611
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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Jacques Bertin is a French cartographer and theorist. In 1954 he founded the Cartographic Laboratory of the École pratique des hautes études and in 1957 he was named director of education. In 1967, Bertin became a professor at the Sorbonne, and in 1974 he was appointed director of education and director of the Geographical Laboratory of the École des hautes études en sciences sociales which is part of the École pratique des hautes etudes. In the late 1970s he became head of research at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique. Bertin is an internationally recognized authority on the analytic study of graphics.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Esri Press; 1 edition (November 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1589482611
  • ISBN-13: 978-1589482616
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 1.2 x 10.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #167,036 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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73 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Howard Wainer on December 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In the preface to the 1983 translation of the Semiology I emphasized the book''s importance as a guide to the future, for it seemed clear that we were on the cusp of an explosion in the use of graphical methods for both the exploration and communication of complex data. This prediction came true. In the intervening 27 years a huge amount of work has been accomplished to help us use graphical methods profitably. This work has been in hardware that can produce graphical displays quickly and inexpensively; software that can translate data files into graphical representations with the click of a mouse; and statistical and perceptual research that helps us know how to use these tools well.

Let me briefly comment only on the latter two aspects. I choose to refrain from any commentary on hardware because my remarks would almost surely be out of date before they were printed. So first, graphical software: thirty years ago I was enthusiastic and optimistic about the future of graphical use, for, I thought, software will be built that has sensible default options, so that when the software is set on maximal stupidity (ours not its), a reasonable graph would result. The software would force you to wring its metaphorical neck if you wanted to produce some horrible pseudo 3-D multicolored pie chart. Alas, I couldn''t have been more wrong. Instead of making wise, evidence-based, choices, default options seem to have been selected by the same folks who deny the holocaust, global warming and evolution. I could not have imagined back then that the revolution in data gathering, analysis and display that was taking place in the last decades of the 20th century would have resulted in the complexity of the modern world being conveyed in bullet-points augmented by PowerPoint and Excel graphics.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Eric B. Wolf on December 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
It's been 27 years since the first printing of this English translation by Berg and 43 years since the original French edition. Finally, the folks at ESRI Press managed a reprint. I can't provide better insight than Howard Wainer in his review (he wrote the preface to the original translated edition).

This is the book that Tufte cribs off of. This is the definitive volume on information visualization and should be required reading for all cartographers. The book a treasure trove of significant ideas in information design, split into two parts: Semiology of the Graphic Sign-System and Utilization of the Graphic Sign-System.

The first part analyzes the properties and rules of the graphic system breaking down the variants and invariants, the plane and the "retinal variables", and combines these and more into rules for construction and legibility. The second part breaks down applications of the graphics as diagrams, networks and maps. The only way the book could be made better would be trough a third section on animation (hinted at in the introduction to the English version).

I have not had the change to check out the new printing but will ASAP!
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Rom on April 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I don't mean to dock this book any of its venerable 5 stars because I think I bought this book in error. After reading that this was Tufte's inspiration, I was expecting a tour-de-force compendium on graphics, drawing, and clarity of visual information.

Instead of clarity I opened a tangle of texts and illegible inky charts, line drawings, maps, and hard-to-decipher diagrams that look like they were reproduced on a 1985 Xerox machine. There are some gems in there regarding color, shape, and line weight, but only a few practical map examples of France and Europe. Everything is crowded, thick with ink, and you won't get far without reading the text.

Perhaps I'm taking this book out of context and its historical significance, but anyone who has ever had to draw any graphic information will know most of these lessons subconsciously. Unlike Tufte's Envisioning Information, a lot of the drawings are hard to understand quickly and intuit the theory behind them.

Should a book on graphics require pages of verbal explanations? I think Tufte would say no, and I think he would have made an excellent editor to Semiology of Graphics.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Erwin on December 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Tufte's books have captured a lot of Bertin's message regarding the visual aspect of graphics (which is, in my experience, now all that is meant by "graphics"), and in a more clear, succinct, and possibly even comprehensive manner. However, _Semiology_ is about much more than what can be seen - it deals extensively with how to get an interesting story from information, which (if I remember correctly) Tufte does not address. I've only seen one other author deal with the process of sifting/sorting/refactoring to find interesting correspondences - Charles L. Owen (in Structured Planning, ) - though it is probably covered in many statistics curricula and is necessarily a part of graduate training in most fields, as Bertin predicts in this book's foreward.
I would like to say that Bertin presents this important perspective/process in a compelling graphic way, but in fact the book is as dense and inconsistently structured as any of Tufte's great counterexamples. The figures are labelled in unpredictable orders on the page, some never mentioned in the text, and because of a mediocre printing job, many exhibit the very errors Bertin seeks to show how to avoid. Worse, these sort of problems are paralleled in the explication (especially with regard to showing a quantity vs. a quantity spread over an area, or Q vs. QS/S in Bertin's formalism), making it a significant challenge to figure out what is central to the argument and what is in the background.
Still, the insight is in there, and the weaknesses are not too great to stop a determined or required reader. The book is full to bursting with myriad practical tips and tricks regarding not just how, when, and why to cram more information onto the page, but also how to decide what information the reader needs.
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