- Hardcover: 371 pages
- Publisher: Analytics Press; Second edition (June 1, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0970601972
- ISBN-13: 978-0970601971
- Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 1.3 x 11.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 94 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,662 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten Second Edition
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About the Author
Stephen Few is the founder of the consultancy Perceptual Edge. He speaks, teaches, and consults around the world and writes the quarterly Visual Business Intelligence Newsletter. He is also the author of Information Dashboard Design: Displaying Data for At-a-Glance Monitoring, Now You See It: Simple Visualization Techniques for Quantitative Analysis, and Signal: Understanding What Matters in a World of Noise.
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In addition to the design coverage, Few covers some (very) basic statisics, how to adjust for inflation, rgb values of a nice selection of colors to use in graphs, how to make box graphs in Excel, and many other workaday details that make the book immediately useful. Most of the charts in the book are made in Excel, showing that you don't need advanced design software to make attractive, clear charts.
The book itself is a beautiful large hardback. This is the source of my one complaint: its large size makes it somewhat difficult to just pop off the shelf and flip through to find something.
If you want to learn how to design good tables and graphs, get it.
Thank you, Stephen Few for all of your guidance and input, you make the community of Data Viz a better place.
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.
Ch 3 - Fundamental Concepts of Tables and Graphs
In this chapter Stephen Few starts to give you some ideas on how to present information, including when to use tables versus when to use graphs and how to properly lay them out depending on whether you are showing quantitative information or qualitative information.
Ch 4 - Fundamental Variations of Tables
After you've figured out to use a table from chapter 3, this chapter will be next on the reading list. Here you will learn more about showing quantitive and categorical data, and options for grouping data.
Ch 5 - Fundamental Variations of Graphs
Just like the tables section, this chapter gives you the basics of various graphs that you can use, including nominal comparisons, time series, ranking, correlation, and a few others. There are a few design characteristics in here, including how to use fill patterns, line styles, and colors to distinguish between various groups of data. Once you see the bad examples you will instantly realize how common bad design is among business users.
At the end of the chapter is a section designed to test your understanding with different scenarios. You get to choose whether you would use a table or a graph, what kind of table or graph, and anything else you might do. At the end of the book is an appendix with the authors suggestions to compare your choices.
Ch 6 - Visual Perception and Quantitative Communication
In this chapter the author breaks away from table and graph design for a briefing on how humans see, interpret, and remember data. Humans have quirks in the way they pull information in, and this chapter will begin to give you some ideas on how you can use that to your advantage (and what things you should try to avoid).
Ch 7 - General Design for Communication
This chapter follows on the knowledge gained in chapter 6 and shows how it can be applied to tables and graphs. The author emphasizes Edward Tufte's principle of the data-ink ratio. If the ink doesn't help to show the data, it should be removed. A few of the other techniques are grouping data, proper sequencing, and adding text to explain what is being shown.
I especially think the point on describing the who, what, when, and where of the data in your presentation is important. This type of metadata is almost always unnoticed by the user, but it adds greatly to the presentation when completed properly.
Ch 8 - Table Design
This chapter continues to build on chapter 4, adding in the principles learned in chapters 6 and 7. If you've ever used dark black fill lines to separate every cell of a table you need to read this chapter. Twice. Please.
The end of the chapter has a few exercises for you to practice what you just learned, and of course there are answers in the back of the book.
Ch 9 - General Graph Design
Just as chapter 8 builds on chapter 4, this chapter builds on chapter 5 while adding in ideas from 6 and 7. The author shows why it's important to carefully consider the scales used in a graph, and how different scales can be used, accidentally or not, to misrepresent the information being considered. He then shows why you should use 2D graphs versus the horrendous 3D graphs that Excel lets you use.
Ch 10 - Component Level Graph Design
Any time you decide to use a graph, you also need to decide what type of graph you want to use. Certain relationships may lend themselves better to scatter plots, while others may work better as a bar chart for instance. This chapter will help you decide which type of chart to use and help you to properly format it for maximum clarity.
Ch 11 - Design Solutions for Multiple Variables
Many of the times you are analyzing data you will be looking at separate groups that must be compared against each other. This chapter will get you started showing complex relationships.
Ch 12 - The Interplay of Standards and Innovation
The final chapter simply tells you to start thinking for yourself about design choices in tables and graphs. Every business is different, and everyone will have their own needs. Pay attention to what works and what doesn't. Be consistent in your design, and everyone can benefit.
This is one of those books where after reading it I felt like saying 'no duh.' But it's information that's so simple that no one bothers to implement it. After reading this book I feel much more conscience of the choices I make in my tables, and I feel like they are already starting to improve. I think this book is well worth picking up and keeping as a handy reference for making tables and graphs.
The book is laid out in a way that discusses
--The basics of building a table and graph
--The physical process of seeing and recognizing objects
--Advanced concepts behind tables and graphs.
Few admits to trying to make the book sound like a teacher speaking with a student and includes exercises. In fact the final section of the book is dedicated to testing your knowledge on several examples. They're interesting, but the book is more of a reference book and I would keep it on my desk - which would be more useful than trying to commit everything to memory.