- Hardcover: 200 pages
- Publisher: Graphics Pr; 2nd edition (January 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0961392142
- ISBN-13: 978-0961392147
- Product Dimensions: 1 x 9 x 11 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 261 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,069 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Visual Display of Quantitative Information 2nd Edition
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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.
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.
It was astonishing how much thought Edward Tufte has put into his data graphic design theories and how the principles in this book still hold strongly to this day.
Absolutely recommend this book to anyone who wants to be better at visualizing data in a useful way to their users/customers/management.
Simply and confidently Tufte lays out the basics of the right and the wrong, the good and the bad (and occasionally ugly) regarding graphical depictions of data and information.
This book (The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, 2nd edition )is the first and the foundation of four books by Tufte (I. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, 2nd edition. II. Envisioning Information. III. Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative. IV. Beautiful Evidence.) that should be read in the order of publication. You will be a wiser person for the effort.
His short book, "The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within", while not part of the "four volume set" is a withering attack on the ubiquitous software program, an attack based on the fact that it encourages the user to break nearly every principle that Tufte has spent the last 20 years elucidating in his books regarding the reading and the writing and presentation of well thought out and presented arguments and reports. I've read it and was convinced; PP constrains complex thought, argument, and statistical (indeed any form of) reasoning with its "bullet points", and is a very inefficient means of depicting information as well, cluttering the display space with useless clip art, huge fonts, and often misleading cookie-cutter graphs. (His satirical PP presentation of the Gettysburg Address humorously makes his points, while his analysis of a very real NASA PowerPoint slide from the decision-making meetings regarding the danger to the Space Shuttle Columbia before its destruction on re-entry makes his points in a very sobering manner.)
All this being said, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information is a Great Book. In the internet age we all spend many hours per week looking at visual depictions of information. Tufte's book will make you a more critical user of nearly everything, from the newspaper, to websites, to work presentations, the sports pages, and even your car's speedometer and other gauges. It is the foundation to all of his published work from the last two decades.
Buy this book!