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

4 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0970601995
ISBN-10: 0970601999
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Due Date: Aug 13, 2016 Rental Details
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Editorial Reviews


"A must read...for anyone working in the field of business intelligence." -- David Wells, Director of Education, The Data Warehousing Institute (TDWI)

"A real gem…clear, concise, and comprehensive." -- Dr. Richard Mayer, Professor of Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara

"More accessible than Cleveland's books and...more practical advice than Tufte's. I highly recommend it." -- Dr. Pat Hanrahan, Professor of Computer Science, Stanford University

From the Publisher

Students attend business school to hone their decision-making skills. They are taught dozens of statistical tools and analytical methods, but their education almost always contains a gaping hole: they rarely learn the importance of careful and effective presentation of data. Once they graduate and enter the business world, their decisions and their firms can suffer as a result.

"Show Me the Numbers" is rare and special. It is a practical and commonsense guide that you can use in your business today and every day. Stephen Few grounds his principles in the work of Edward R. Tufte and others, extends them to comprehensively address the needs of business, and then applies them to hundreds of examples drawn from his own experience. No matter where you are in your career, more skilled presentation of information will help you and your business prosper, and this book will help you do just that. Read it and put it to work – your shareholders and colleagues will thank you for it.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Analytics Press; First Edition edition (September 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0970601999
  • ISBN-13: 978-0970601995
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 1 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #555,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jo Anne S. Burlison on September 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
After reading "Show Me the Numbers," while preparing to post a review of this exceptional book, I felt compelled to respond to the odd and uninformed comments posted by the reviewer who goes by the name Joey Canuck. His primary criticism seems to be that the book is bloated with more words than necessary to present the content. I couldn't disagree more. Perhaps Mr. Canuck disapproves of the author's approach to teaching, which involves a thorough, step-by-step construction of the concepts, complemented by many practical examples, which I believe to be a sound approach when you intend to help people learn. Just like well designed tables and graphs, the design of this book, without frivolous or distracting content, demonstrates a clear focus on communication.

Contrary to Joey Canuck's claim, this book has nothing to do with Excel, other than instructions that appear in an appendix for using Excel to create a particular graph. The principles and practices taught in this book are software agnostic. Regarding consistency with the principles taught by Edward Tufte, I found this book to be quite true to them, and a fitting application and extension of Tufte's principles to the data presentation needs faced every day in the business world. Canuck's complaint that the first grid line does not appear in a graph until page 207 suggests that he is not very familiar with Tufte's teachings, which would deem grid lines in most business graphs as "chartjunk." Actually, the first graph with grid lines appears on page 4, but as an example of the poor design that is common in business today.

A big part of my work involves the creation of reports, consisting largely of tables and graphs. I must often fight for the need to keep the presentation of data simple and clear. "Show Me the Numbers" provides me with the support I need to do this effectively and compellingly.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For someone like me, a programmer interested in creating better user interfaces, this is a really good book. I have no formal training in creating better visual displays, and this book has helped me understand decent graph layout. I've read the Tufte books, and while I really like them, they are often more qualitative than quantitative (no pun intended) in their descriptions. This book spells out how to make a good table based on the type of data, the number of fields being used, the relationship of the fields, etc. It's very hands on and very usable. My one complaint is I think he strays too far in to the cognitive aspect of how we see and understand data than he needs to given the focus of this book.
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First a disclaimer: I have not read Edward Tufte's "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information." I have looked through "Envisioning Information" however, and I found this book by Stephen Few to be more helpful to me. While I love the infographics that can be seen in publications like Wired Magazine an the New York Times (and Envisioning Information), I am an analyst, not a designer. My tools are Excel and Powerpoint, not Adobe Illustrator and Flash.

As an analyst I am comfortable with numbers, but I also want others to see what I see, and I want them to be able to see it quickly instead of getting lost in table after table. This is where Show Me The Numbers fits in. It is a book designed to help you communicate with others.

Here's a quick walk through Show Me The Numbers:

Ch 1 - Introduction

Since the advent of spreadsheet software tables and graphs have become increasingly popular and easy to make. Unfortunately those easy to make tables and graphs are not always made to be easy to read and interpret. The purpose of Stephen Few's book is to help you decide when to use tables, when to use graphs, and how to create them in a manner that will most effectively show the message you are trying to present.

Ch 2 - Numbers Worth Knowing

This chapter is fundamental for readers without a basic understanding of statistics, and a refresher for the rest of us. For example, an 'average' refers to a measure of central tendency. But depending on the numbers you may want to use the mean, the median, the even the mode.

In addition to introducing these concepts, the author shows a few ways that this information can be shown in tables and graphs.
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
As other reviewers have already noted, this is indeed an excellent book. Show Me the Numbers covers just about everything you need to know in order to present quantitative information in a clear and persuasive manner. Follow the author's advice and your graphs will tell a useful story, rather than merely list statistics; highlight significant trends, rather than obscure meaningful relationships.

I particularly liked the chapter on how visual perception influences a reader's ability to understand various types of graphic displays. The author clearly illustrates graphic techniques which work WITH our natural tendencies, and thus promote rapid comprehension of the underlying quantitative message. Learning about visual perception helped me more deeply understand and internalize the essence of good graphic design.

In summary, this is a tremendously practical book. The only bad thing about Show Me the Numbers, is that I now cringe nearly every time I see a graph - as I am painfully aware of how poorly designed most of them are. Do yourself a favor, buy a few extra copies of Show Me the Numbers and pass them around at work!
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