Envisioning Information

Edward Tufte has written four books on analytical design:

1983: The Visual Display of Quantitative Information
1990: Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative
1990: Envisioning Information
2006: Beautiful Evidence

In this book Tufte writes about how to best communicate real-life experience in a two-degree format. But like jeemin writes in his review of the book:

While escaping flatland in order to convey information more effectively is still in practice, it appears that there is a current trend in embracing flatland. I feel that saying there is less risk of cognitive dissonance and less risk of failure in unnecessarily trying to trick the mind’s eye or human perception when one accepts the 2D format for what it is (what I think he refers to as false escapes from flatland), is itself a strong argument. Why even try to escape flatland?

My notes from Envisioning Information:

– Escaping the flatland is the essential task of envisioning information (p.12) (escaping the two dimensionality of information mapping)
– The two fundamental summary measures of statistical data: average and variation about that average (p.32)
– Well designed, thoughtfully mapped images combine: 1) Direct visual evidence 2) Power of diagram
Most explanatory & evidential images should be mapped: 1) Including scale and context 2) High standards for mappings as any evidence
– To clarify, add detail (p.37)
– Panorama, vista, and prospect deliver to viewers the freedom of choice that derives from an overview, a capacity to compare and sort through detail. And that micro-information provides a credible refuge where the pace of visualization is condensed, slowed, and personalized (p.38)
– Micro / macro designs enforce both local and global comparisons and, at the same time, avoid the disruption of context switching. All told, exactly what is needed for reasoning about information. High-density designs also allow viewers to select, to narrate, to recast and personalize data for their own uses (p.50)
– The quantity of detail is an issue completely separate from the difficulty of reading. Clutter and confusion are failures of design, not attributes of information (p.51)
– Among the most powerful devices for reducing noise and enriching the content of displays is the technique of layering and separation (p.53)
– A proper relationship among information layers: the visual relationships must be in relevant proportion and in harmony to the substance of the ideas, evidence and data conveyed (p.54)
– Pure, bright or very strong colors have loud, unbearable effects when they stand unrelieved over large areas adjacent to each other, but extraordinary effects can be achieved when they are used sparingly on or between dull background tones.  (Eduard Imhof, Cartographic Relief Presentation, p.72)
– A design secret of classical cartography: the effectiveness and elegance of small spots of intense, saturated color for carrying information (p.63)
– Comparisons must be enforced within the scope of the eyespan (p.76)
– The fundamental uses of color in information design: to label (color as a noun), to measure (color as quantity), to represent or imitate reality (color as represenation) and to enliven or decorate (color as beauty) (p.81)

Oh, and I need to write about relative scale someday. Not today though.


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