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Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative [Hardcover]

by Edward R. Tufte
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 1997 0961392126 978-0961392123
Describes design strategies - the proper arrangement in space and time of images, words, and numbers - for presenting information about motion, process, mechanism, cause, and effect. Examines the logic of depicting quantitative evidence.

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Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative + Envisioning Information + The Visual Display of Quantitative Information
Price for all three: $108.10

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

With Visual Explanations, Edward R. Tufte adds a third volume to his indispensable series on information display. The first, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, which focuses on charts and graphs that display numerical information, virtually defined the field. The second, Envisioning Information, explores similar territory but with an emphasis on maps and cartography. Visual Explanations centers on dynamic data--information that changes over time. (Tufte has described the three books as being about, respectively, "pictures of numbers, pictures of nouns, and pictures of verbs.")

Like its predecessors, Visual Explanations is both intellectually stimulating and beautiful to behold. Tufte, a self-publisher, takes extraordinary pains with design and production. The book ranges through a variety of topics, including the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger (which could have been prevented, Tufte argues, by better information display on the part of the rocket's engineers), magic tricks, a cholera epidemic in 19th-century London, and the principle of using "the smallest effective difference" to display distinctions in data. Throughout, Tufte presents ideas with crystalline clarity and illustrates them in exquisitely rendered samples.

From Library Journal

Tufte is the master of visualization. You can immediately add this new work alongside his previous gems, Visual Display of Quantitative Information (1983) and Envisioning Information (1990, both from Graphics). Tufte's discussions take place in a world where specific software and certain parameters of the web don't exist?we all know such limitations are always changing anyway. His historical perspective allows Tufte to demonstrate simple, timeless guidelines that are independent of special stylesheets or the latest upgrade from Netscape. In this volume, Tufte illustrates not only traditional areas such as statistics, repetitions, and multiples but also magic and compositional allegories.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 156 pages
  • Publisher: Graphics Press (February 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0961392126
  • ISBN-13: 978-0961392123
  • Product Dimensions: 10.8 x 8.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,177 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
132 of 134 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rewarding to those willing to spend time on it June 25, 2000
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As an extension of his observations described in his earlier book, "Envisioning Information", Tufte's third installment of the trilogy turns the discussion to the display of dynamic information. Again, Tufte draws from numerous examples throughout history to illustrate his points. The chapter on 'Visual and Statistical Thinking' contains some of the most poignant arguments in the book, including an engaging visual narrative of the 1854 Cholera Epidemic and a study on the Challenger space-shuttle tragedy.
This book may not for everyone, however. It does not contain ready-to-use concepts nor does it present a comprehensive solution for displaying dynamic information. What it does contain, are keen observations and commentary on past attempts at dynamic information display. The relation of each chapter to the next is not readily apparent and is quite precarious in fact. What results, is a book that reads better if each chapter is taken independently. In short, this book will be more rewarding to those willing to spend time to ponder over Tufte's observations. Conversely, the book will appear to have a lack of focus to those in a rush to find solutions.
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79 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tufte is an intellectual giant February 23, 2002
Format:Hardcover
VISUAL EXPLANATIONS: IMAGES AND QUANTITIES, EVIDENCE AND NARRATIVE represents one volume within a set of three. In this volume, Edward R. Tufte explores the visual and artistic aspects of the assessment of change, dynamics and most importantly cause and effect. In my mind, Edward R. Tufte is one of the intellectual giants of the 20th century. His work is magnificent! He employs a powerful conceptual framework that has had a profound effect on the reader.
I own all three volumes. I use VISUAL EXPLANATIONS: IMAGES AND QUANTITIES, EVIDENCE AND NARRATIVE when I teach statistics. Students, but mostly professors, are too caught up with the power of inferential statistics leaving behind or seeing the visual display of data as insignificant or too simple to be introduced in a college course. Even worse, some are just plain ignorant regarding data presentation. To dispel any attitude that inferential statistics are the heart and soul of the study of cause, I use the section about the Challenger space flight to illustrate the importance of graphic illustrations in the field of engineering. The book hits home like no other visual presentation. Students see how decisions are made on the basis of poor quality and high quality graphics. These graphics produce a rare quietness in the classroom. There emerges a respect for the deceased astronauts. Students see how decision-makers employ graphic illustrations to determine a critical (in this case, life-threatening) course of action. The illustrations played an important function in endorsing the liftoff of the doomed Challenger.
After students emotionally recover from the trauma of visually understanding the flaw in the O-rings, the graphics lead students to understand the statistical concept of "independence.
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53 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Readers Delight July 11, 2000
Format:Hardcover
Oh my - Mr. Tufte just carries on producing one fine piece of work after another.
This third book in the triology on "information presentation" is as splendid as the previous two books. In this volume the emphasis is, as the title suggests, on methods for creating powerful illustrations and graphics that could help you present your knowledge in a non-disputable way.
The most intriguing section in this book without doubt the chapter on the Challenger disaster in 1986. The rocket engineers back then had worries about the launch on Jan 28. However they were not at all able to communicate their worries to NASA and so it ended... In a worrying few number of pages, Mr. Tufte, dissects the data presented to NASA by the engineers and creates a information redesign which makes it clear to anyone that the launch should have been postponed.
I still belive that book 2, "Envisioning Information" is the most required. Buy that book and if you love is (as I do), then buy the other two books as well.
The layout of this book is fully in thread with the others in the series. Beautiful, engaging, ingenious, etc. The print quality is second to none - you really have a feeling that the crew behind these books have been nursing their babies.
So Mr. Tufte - where is number four in the series?
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars another great book by Tufte on graphs February 6, 2008
Format:Hardcover
In this third book by Tufte on graphics, he provides great examples through history where good pictures conveyed important information to decision makers and bad graphics left uncetainty and indecision. A great success story is the identification of the source of the cholera epidemic in London in the 1850s. With regard to the Challenger Space Shuttle, Tufte suggests that one good picture may have convinced the NASA engineers of the need to avoid launching at low temperatures. Great pictures, great examples and great advice are found throughout the book. You may not believe that graphs can be used to answer all scientific questions but Tufte will convince you that they are important and must be done right!
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a text book but a knowledgeable friend August 27, 2005
Format:Hardcover
Visual Explanations is not a usual book. It is like a knowledgeable friend walking with you through a museum: pointing out good design and bad ideas; linking various domains (graphic design, usability, psychology) together. You learn things slowly, almost by symbiosis. Visual Explanations will be enchanting for people who have the time to read it in that way. It will be frustrating for people looking for a practical guide: This is not a textbook. The book itself is beautifully produced.

Topics covered include: clarity and purpose of information, color scheme choice, and composition of images.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Not all Tufte Books are created equal
Depending on your training and experience, Professor Tufte's books will be more or less useful. In all, I find he has a penchant for overstatement. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Glenn E. White
5.0 out of 5 stars Critical Breath of Fresh Air
In the age of death by powerpoint, Tufte systematically decomposes and provides method to graphically representing complex systems. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Luke M Jennings
5.0 out of 5 stars No to unnecessary headlines
Finally, something that makes sense in this field.
Apparently my succinct message is not enough: Edward Tufte would be appalled.
Published 4 months ago by Richard Lucas
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice
Nice graphics - I flipped through and was able to generate some ideas for a personal project without even getting too deep in it initially.
Published 6 months ago by CB
4.0 out of 5 stars A bit similar to all his books written in a different perspective
Useful for anyone who does public presentation and have to work on displays for people to easily grasp complex ideas into simple and understanble info for discussion or decision... Read more
Published 6 months ago by JOSE FERREIRA PINTO
5.0 out of 5 stars Great for Engineers
My fiance wanted this as a present, she's an engineer.

While engineers may be great at making great results, presenting the information is still a challenge (especially... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Ryan D
4.0 out of 5 stars Another book for class
This was an interesting class. This book showed different images and sometimes you had to explain what was going on, but in this class we had to have a broader aspect in explaining... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Brodaming Cambero
5.0 out of 5 stars A book to make you think
Sometimes you look at something without understanding why you do or don't like it. This book helps that understanding. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Mike Diggins
5.0 out of 5 stars Tufte rules
Edward Tufte is always a pleasure to read. I'm sorry he is now sculpting, but glad that he left this work behind. Terrific and intelligent.
Published 15 months ago by Eloqui (Consignment)
4.0 out of 5 stars The other Tufte book about visual presentation...
I have heard rave reviews about this book and the accompanied book ... both for Quantitative and Qualitative analyses. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Ken
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