Friday, March 23, 2007

Information Expert Edward Tufte

Tufte called Leonardo da Vinci of data, the Strunk and White of graphic design, the George Orwell of the digital age ...

"When information needs to be communicated, Edward Tufte demands both truth and beauty.

... Tufte has demonstrated how confusing medical charts can lead to mistakes in treatment and how corporate reports that highlight years of rising revenue without adjusting for inflation can mislead investors. He has shown how a lawyer used a simple spreadsheet to defend mobster John Gotti and how 19th-century physician John Snow used detailed maps of London to pinpoint the cause of a cholera outbreak. Tufte is credited with turning chart-making into a discipline with intellectual credibility and moral weight. His course attracts not only visual professionals but also scientists, engineers, journalists, doctors, attorneys and financial analysts—pretty much anyone who analyzes and presents data.

In his lectures and books, Tufte invokes a variety of thinkers who have been models of precision, withering analysis and clarity. But his hero, “the master,’’ is Galileo, the mathematician and astronomer who challenged fiercely held misconceptions about the world by the simple, unprecedented act of looking at the sky through a telescope and drawing what he saw.

Beautiful Evidence opens with the words of a Galileo friend and patron, who wrote that those drawings “delight by the wonder of the spectacle and the accuracy of expression.’’ Tufte returns to the images again and again: sunspots, Jupiter’s moons, meticulously annotated diagrams of planets and stars. He says Galileo’s first published observations of Saturn’s rings, with word-sized sketches inserted mid-sentence (see below), “may be the best piece of analytic design ever done."

... “We adore him, says Nicolas Bissantz, managing director of Bissantz & Company, a software firm in Nuremberg, Germany. Bissantz stumbled onto Tufte’s books (in English—they’ve not been published in translation), and got so excited he developed software that makes Tufteizing a chart almost as easy as, well, creating a PowerPoint show. The software uses a Tufte idea for compressing huge amounts of data—say, the fluctuations of the exchange rate over several years—into a word-sized graphic called a sparkline."    (Continued via STANFORD Magazine)    [Usability Resources]

Sparklines - Usability, User Interface Design



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