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Beautiful Evidence Paperback – July 1, 2006
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In more than one book, Tufte uses Charles Joseph Minard's multivariate data map depicting Napoleon's invasion of Russia. In this book, he uses it once again, but he does so in a chapter devoted to this single map. The chapter, The Fundamental Principles of Analytical Design, begins with a much larger view of the map that folds out into a double-sized page making the details more available. Further, it is translated into English for those of us who do not read French. In one respect, the translation illustrated how strong the graphic explanation was--the translation didn't add much to it. However, using detail from Minard's map, Tufte is able to illustrate the principles of analytic design--the chapter's topic.
This book is not a fast-food takeout. You must be willing to (and want to) mull over the graphics and text. While Tufte's fussiness may bother some (along with pronouncements that "THIS IS SO!) I find his efforts worth the time...taken leisurely and with the expectation of both an intellectual and enjoyable outcome.
Tufte's rant on PowerPoint is reproduced in a chapter, but let's face it; it's worth thinking about. (Tufte blames both the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle losses on poor communication between engineers and decision makers--PowerPoint gets the blame fully for Columbia.) Even better than Tufte's rant about the thinness of PP as far as a tool for clear communication is Microsoft's smug response suggesting that the misuse of PP is the problem, and Tufte doesn't know what he's talking about. (The responses to Tufte's article from Microsoft and its hired guns (or flying monkeys) are not reproduced in the book, but the amount of clamor caused by Tufte indicates he hit a nerve. Even Don Norman, who knows a thing or two about design came to Microsoft's defense is one of his most disingenuous articles to date.)
The last chapter, Sculptural Pedestals, is not as bad as I feared. To be sure, it is an opportunity for Tufte to showcase his own sculptures, but he is able to provide enough analytical material to justify this somewhat irrelevant addition to the book
All in all, it is a recommendable book, which - even if a little bit too hyped up for what it is supposed to offer - still offers a valuable read.