Visual Display of Quantitative Information (1st Edition)by Edward R. Tufte
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information contains 250 illustrations of the best (and a few of the worst) statistical charts, graphics, and tables, with a detailed analysis of how to display quantitative data for precise, quick, effective analysis. Highest quality book design and production throughout. See more details below
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information contains 250 illustrations of the best (and a few of the worst) statistical charts, graphics, and tables, with a detailed analysis of how to display quantitative data for precise, quick, effective analysis. Highest quality book design and production throughout.
- Graphics Press
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Older Edition
- Product dimensions:
- 9.01(w) x 10.92(h) x 0.87(d)
Read an Excerpt
Chapter 3: Sources of Graphical Integrity and SophisticationWhy do artists draw graphics that lie? Why do the world's major newspapers and magazines publish them?
Although bias and stereotyping are the origin of more than a few graphical distortions, the primary causes of inept graphical work are to be found in the skills, attitudes, and organizational structure prevailing among those who design and edit statistical graphics.
Lack of Quantitative Skills of Professional Artists
Lurking behind the inept graphic is a lack of judgment about quan-titative evidence. Nearly all those who produce graphics for masspublication are trained exclusively in the fine arts and have hadlittle experience with the analysis of data. Such experience is essen-tial for achieving precision and grace in the presence of statistics,but even textbooks of graphical design are silent on how to thinkabout numbers. Illustrators too often see their work as an exclu-sively artistic enterprise-the words "creative," "concept," and"style" combine regularly in all possible permutations, a Big Thinkjargon for the small task of constructing a time-series a few datapoints long. Those who get ahead are those who beautify data,never mind statistical integrity.
The Doctrine That Statistical Data Are Boring
Inept graphics also flourish because many graphic artists believe that statistics are boring and tedious. It then follows that decorated graphics must pep up, animate, and all too often exaggerate what evidence there is in the data. For example:
Time's first full-time chart specialist, an art-school graduate, says that in his work, "The challenge is to present statistics as avisual idea rather than a tedious parade of numbers."
The opening sentence of the chapter on statistical charts in Jan White's Graphic Idea Notebook: "Why are statistics so boring?" Sample illustrations supposedly reveal "Dry statistics turned into symbolic graphics" and "Plain statistics embellished or humanized with pictures."
A fine book on graphics, Herdeg's Graphis/Diagrams, is described by its publisher: "An international review demonstrating convincingly that statistical and diagrammatic graphics do not necessarily have to be dull."
The doctrine of boring data serves political ends, helping to advance certain interests over others in bureaucratic struggles for control of a publication's resources. For if the numbers are dull dull dull, then an artist, indeed many artists, indeed an Art Department and an Art Director are required to animate the data, lest the eyes of the audience glaze over. Thus the doctrine encourages placing data graphics under control of artists rather than in the hands of those who write the words and know the substance. As the art bureaucracy grows, style replaces content. And the word people, having lost space in the publication to data decorators, console themselves with thoughts that statistics are really rather tedious anyway. If the statistics are boring, then you've got the wrong numbers. Finding the right numbers requires as much specialized skillstatistical skill-and hard work as creating a beautiful design or covering a complex news story.
The Doctrine That Graphics Are Only for the Unsophisticated Reader
Many believe that graphical displays should divert and entertain those in the audience who find the words in the text too difficult. For example:
Consumer Reports describes the design of their new consumer magazine for children: "For the first test issue, CU's professional staff produced an article about sugar that was longer on graphics than on information. We had feared children might be overwhelmed by too many facts."
An art director with overall responsibility for the design of some 3,ooo data graphics each year (yielding 2.5 billion printed images) said that graphics are intended more to lure the reader's attention away from the advertising than to explain the news in any detail. "Unlike the advertisements," he said, "at least we don't put naked women in our graphics...
Meet the Author
Edward Tufte is a professor at Yale University, where he teaches courses in statistical evidence and information design. His books include Visual Explanations, Envisioning Information, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Political Control of the Economy, Data Analysis for Politics and Policy, and Size and Democracy (with Robert A. Dahl).
He is a fellow of the American Statistical Association, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. He has received honorary doctorates from The Cooper Union and Connecticut College, the Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science, and the Joseph T. Rigo Award for contributions to software documentation from the Association for Computing Machinery.
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