|Minard's map of Napoleon's Moscow campaign|
Here are Tufte's books:
Tufte, Edward R.
1990 Envisioning Information. Graphics Press, Cheshire, CT.
1997 Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative. Graphics Press, Cheshire, CT.
2001 The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. 2nd ed. Graphics Press, Cheshire, CT.
2006 Beautiful Evidence. Graphics Press, Cheshire, CT.
His basic book, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, was first published in the early 1980s. Each book adds new examples and new perspectives on visual presentations. The latest one, Beautiful Evidence is the most synthetic and theoretical. Tufte spent some time in the workshop today on the material in the chapter, "The Fundamental Principles of Analytical Design." His basic notion is that fundamental principles of analytical thinking translate directly into the principles of good design. He even quote Durkheim in this section. Here are the basic principles:
- Comparisons: A graphic should show comparisons, contrasts, and differences.
- The Minard map compares the two legs of the campaign, and it also compares the army's progress and army size with temperature data.
- Causality, Mechanism, Structure, Explanation: A graphic should illustrate causality.
- Tufte suggests that Minard's maps is thin on causality, not going beyond the temperature
- Multivariate Analysis: A graphic should show many variables.
- Minard's map shows latitude and longitude, army size, the size of the army, the chronology of the campaign, and temperature.
- Integration of Evidence: graphics should combine "words, numbers, images, and diagrams" in clear and explanatory ways.
- Minard's map nicely integrates the graphical and textual.
- Documentation: A graphic should establish its credibilty by citing sources and using other mechanics of scholarly documentation and rigor.
- Not surprisingly, Minard cities his data sources clearly, provides his own name, etc.
- Content Counts Most of All: A graphic should be tailored to present the basic information or ideas of interest. The form of the graphic is less important than its content.
- Minard did not set out to produce a jazzy graphic, bur rather to illustrate starkly the horrors of war.
Beautiful Evidence includes Tufte's iconic essay "The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint" (a strong critique of powerpoint). Here is a quote from one of his books: "The only thing worse than a pie chart is multiple pie charts." Thanks to the workshop, I now own all four books, and I've read a number of chapters. This is really great stuff, and well worth a look.
Check out Edward Tufte's website for more information. It even has some information on Richard Feynman, one of my heroes.