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Showing 1-10 of 43 reviews(4 star). Show all reviews
on May 25, 2000
This book will teach you some basics on how to most effectively present quantitative information using various sorts of graphs and charts. Afterwards you will know how and why you should get rid of chart junk (gridlines, tick marks, ornaments, etc.) or alternatively using some of the examples on bad design presented, you will see how to manipulate your audience using the "Lie Factor". Actually the advice given in this book could easily fit within just one piece of paper, but then: This book is simply beautiful. It is state of the art for printed books, you almost feel a passion for it. Mr. Tufte takes his own medicine: No words in this book are superfluous. Illustrations and examples are carefully selected and reprinted with the utmost care. It takes no more than some hours to read the book, but afterwards you can use more than just a few hours to study the examples of timeless graphic displays. The only reason why this book is short of five stars is the following: Mr. Tufte uses quite some space providing statistics about charts found in different publications (chart junk percentages, lie factor. Personally I find this information fairly irrelevant and would have preferred more examples of chart remakes. However this book is definately still a MUST have!
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on August 15, 2003
Quite insightful, especially the historic perspective. The only difference between the newer and 1983 edition is color is added to a few of the charts.
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on September 23, 1997
Tufte's first two books concentrated on the print medium, where he is comfortable and knowledgable. This book steps into the computer graphics domain, where his knowledge is only partially applicable.
He fully recognizes the problems related to the limited pixel resolution of the computer screen, but he doesn't know what to do about it. In his example screens for the Museum kiosk, his vision is clear but impractical. He knows what should be done if more screen resolution were available, but fails to show how his vision can be embodied in the computer screens we really have available.
I hope Tufte will rethink the subject and figure out how to properly apply the high temporal resolution of the screen to make up for its low spatial resolution.
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on June 7, 2015
This is the bible for people interested in presenting information in visual format. Where he shorts the reader, I believe, is that he is marvelous in his discussions of the technical side, he isn't as strong on the rhetorical side. That is, he tells us all about the "how" of visual presentation, but almost nothing of how to be effective communicators. Still, it's the best book on the block.
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VINE VOICEon December 20, 2003
Tufte isn't considered the master of this field for nothing; this work debunks a lot of common practices in data display, including use of color, composition of images, and the importance of scales and labels. An excellent grounding is provided in theory about how to effectively present quantitative data, but the practical advice and examples are also comprehensive.
The only thing this book was missing for me was how to tie in data display with the rest of a writing -- how to best visually display your data near descriptive text, but get the flow right so that readers will get the most value from it. Of course, you can get some of that information by osmosis merely by reading his beautifully-composed book.
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on March 19, 2016
Such a delight! It's a perfect coffee table book for a data professional. I enjoy it immensely. The build quality of the book is great, and there's a wealth of content in the history and rules of data visualization that would satisfy any data enthusiast. This is more a book for fun than a reference book for work, in my opinion. Data geeks would love this as a gift.
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on November 21, 2010
Edward Tufte's "Visual Display of Quantitative Information" is considered a classic. He passionately argues for useful graphing of quantitative information that truthfully portrays complex data. He rails against much of the "chart junk" that print media often uses that are flashy yet do not display the data accurately.
In this beautiful volume, he cites numerous examples to make his points. At times he is repetitive, driving home his main points forcefully. His ideas for good chart design are useful, but limited. Modern day users of Excel software will find general ideas here to use in their efforts. I hungered for more detail.

Good graphs:
' show the data
' induce viewer to think about substance, not method
' avoid distracting data
' Present many numbers in a small space
' Make large data sets coherent
' Encourage the eye to compare different data

"Graphic excellence is the efficient communication of complex quantitative ideas."

Graphical excellence:
' Complex ideas communicated with clarity, precision, efficiency
' Greatest number of ideas in shortest time with least ink, in the smallest space
' Nearly always multivariate
' Tells the truth about the data

Good graphs:
' Above all, show the data- don't waste ink
' Maximize the data to ink ratio
' Erase non-data ink

General ideas:
' Show data variation- not design variation! (Excel isn't capable of it anyway).
' In time series displays of money, deflated and standardized units are usually better than nominal units
' Don't use 3-D for 1-D data, even 2-D is suspect.
' Avoid "chart junk" which is optical illusions, hash lines, dots.
' Avoid grid lines - dark grid lines are chart junk!
' "Graphical excellence is often found in simplicity of design and complexity of data."
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on August 11, 2012
It goes without saying that this one of the books you "must read" if you have anything to do with charts and graphs.

The book is wonderful as a selective romp through a history of graphics, and is correct in constantly hammering home the point that clarity in graphics is key, and that the ratio of data-ink to non-data-ink should be high (an interesting measure).

But significant parts of the book simply come across as eccentric, at best.

Tufte advocates data on a world map that nearly stretches around the world twice (p99) -- a little overlap is useful, but this goes far overboard.

He makes truly bizarre suggestions on using barely-visible line "offsets" and barely visible line-gaps to express quartile data (p124). I can barely make out the key information on his perfectly printed page, and can guarantee that any reproduction either by overhead projector or by Xerox would render his "preferred form" utterly useless. This section alone makes me question his judgment throughout the rest of the book.

And then his section on sparklines (pp 172-174) seems to be a jarring bit of self-promotion. He extolls their virtues, but I don't recall ever coming across them in print or on the web -- they just don't seem useful enough to warrant three enthusiastic pages in this book.

In sum, I'd say the main value in this book is as a beautiful compendium of varied graphical examples throughout history. In contrast, Tufte's analysis and recommendations seem overly wordy and at times misguided. I was honestly surprised -- from such a famous book, I was truly expecting more.
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on January 17, 2013
I really liked some of the graphs and interesting ways to present data. However, there could have been a lot more of that in a book this size. Wish it had been heavier on the unconventional graphs and interesting data.
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on December 2, 2012
If you're interested data visualization careers, or simply want to expand your skill set, Tufte is an author that just needs to be studied. Job interviewers will be looking to see that you understand the philosophy behind developing awesome visualizations, and Tufte is where they usually begin.

My only gripe with this book is that Tufte seems to be a little too extreme with his suggestions. For example, he introduces the data-to-ink ratio that simply does not apply to every single visualization out there. But I know, his ideas should be treated as simple guidelines, not laws. But there are also other aspects of the content that irks me - the "Lie Factor" formula that he provides, for instance, does not actually work. I did this with my instructor and classmates in the classroom!

But, as I said, you can't ignore Tufte. It's too much of a legend in the field and whatever he says needs to be taken seriously if you're serious about information visualization.
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