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Information Graphics: A Comprehensive Illustrated Reference [Paperback]

Robert L. Harris
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: 35.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Jan 2000
This beautifully illustrated book is the first complete handbook to visual information. Well written, easy use, and carefully indexed, it describes the full range of charts, graphs, maps, diagrams, and tables used daily to manage, analyse, and communicate information. It features over 3,000 illustrations, making it an ideal source for ideas on how to present information. It is an invaluable tool for anyone who writes or designs reports, whether for scientific journals, annual reports, or magazines and newspapers.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 450 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (1 Jan 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195135326
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195135329
  • Product Dimensions: 2.6 x 21.8 x 27.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 761,706 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"This is an excellent reference for those wishing to describe data using graphs (of any nature)...I can imagine many applied statisticians, engineers, people from economy and/or newspapers, etc., for whom this reference could be an important addition to the library."-- Math"An encyclopedia of graphical techniques, including the many tools arising from modern data analysis. A great resource." --Chance, a publication of the American Statistical Association"The breadth and depth of entries, examples, and cross references are almost overwhelming. Readers can explore subjects to the depth necessary--it's all there ... The writing is straightforward and precise without being overly technical and presupposes no special knowledge of graphics or mathematics." --Journal of the Society for Technical Communication

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a catalogue of charts 20 Sep 2002
This is a train spotters approach to recognising every conceivable way of charting data - the detail is painstaking, though not painful.
Be clear, however - this is a book that almost exclusively focuses on visualising quantitative information - there's no 'signage' type concepts here, and there isn't even any colour, which is actually a bonus as colour would only introduce even more distraction. You will never have believed how many different ways you can chart a string of data points until you leaf through this tome.
The book, in attempting to catalogue charting from so many different dimensions, ends up repeating itself a lot - it could have been a third of its size and still conveyed the same volume of information.
It's a book that's great to flick through when you're looking for inspiration to show that piece of boring statistics in a more engaging form.
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Even though I have been involved in presenting quantitative data professionally for more than twenty years, I had no idea that there are so many different types of graphs, maps, tables, diagrams, and charts. The book is great of you are looking for new and better ways to present your data. Just browsing through it is a joy.

The book has the structure of an dictionary. It has entries for all kind of terms involved in making and describing graphs, etc. So it has for example a (long) entry on "Pie Chart", but also a separate entry on "Segment". It has lots of excellent illustrations, but even better is the text of the entries, explaining what the graph (map, table, etc.) is meant to show, discussing its parts, mentioning variations or alternatives, and indicating relations with other graphs (maps, tables, etc.). As such the book can also be used as a textbook to learn how to present data.

As the book was first published in 1996, one might think that it has become outdated with the increase of computer visualization tools. This is not the case. The quality of the illustrations in the book is much higher than what is produced by most of the software that is used nowadays.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Consultant's best friend 29 Dec 2000
By Mike Tarrani - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a consultant in the computer industry I often wonder if I am a technical specialist or a technical writer because of the high volume of writing I do. While I have honed my writing skills through both experience and training in Information Mapping, I used to be at a loss about how to best portray technical data in my documents.
Information Graphics: A Comprehensive Illustrated Reference changed that. With this handy reference, which is never far from my keyboard, I have a 450-page catalog of ideas and guidance. What is remarkable is that in the 450 pages are 4,000 illustrations (nearly 10 per page). This book has allowed me to measurably improve the quality of my proposals and deliverables by picking the best possible way to convey information.
Don't let the fact that I am in the computer consulting industry deter you from buying this book - if you are in business, graphic arts, advertising and marketing or just about any other profession that uses data this book will be worth its weight in gold.
51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Alphabetical arrangement not very useful 15 Oct 2004
By Arni Magnusson - Published on
Three stars is perhaps harsh, but this book would be much more useful if it had been structured differently. Open this book

and on the first page the entries start rolling: "Abscissa", "Abscissa axis", "Abstract graph", etc. Most readers will be

exhausted before reaching the letters D or E...

Having compiled this exhaustive list of information graphics, one would expect the author to provide some kind of an

overview, guidelines, or some useful grouping of the different types of graphics. The closest thing to such insights is

found in the brief preface (pp. 4-5) and the "Graph" entry (pp. 164-177).

I have to disagree with the reviewers describing this book as helpful "to select the best graphic or chart to convey

information in the most efficient way". When you "turn to this book and and pick the most appropriate graphic type", which

alphabetical entries are you going to look up? And which entries are you going to miss?

This book does serve a purpose as a catalogue and a 4 page bibliography, but the best books for learning how to create

informative and efficient graphics are those written by Edward Tufte and William Cleveland.
63 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dramatically improved by graphic communication skills 25 April 2001
By Linda Zarate - Published on
I have an array of powerful graphics tools ranging from Microsoft Excel's rich charting add-in, to Visio Professional and Harvard Instant Charts. Despite my technical skills that allow me to quickly produce just about any kind of chart or graphic imaginable, I was never such how to select the best graphic or chart to convey information in the most efficient way before I got this book.
This book is a catalog of ideas and a guide for selecting the best possible way to display information in graphical format. Now, instead of floundering around playing with two or three ways to graphically depict information I turn to this book and pick the most appropriate graphic type. My ability to communicate has dramatically improved because now that I have confidence that I am using the optimal method to display information I find myself using graphics not only more effectively, but more wisely.
Prior to this book my graphics tools were implements that more often than not produced inappropriate charts, giving credence to the adage that "A fool with a tool is still a fool". Since this book I now use my software tools like a skilled craftsman who has the perfect blueprint. With 450 pages of illustrations that show how to depict information visually in the best possible way this book is my perfect blueprint.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Encyclopedic Work About Data Presentation 26 July 2004
By Anonymous - Published on
This is not a how-to-book. Harris has written a definitive book about data presentation. Topics are organized alphabetically and cross-referenced. Almost every entry is accompanied by illustrations and sometime many of them. I have other books that describe data presentation but they are incomplete compared with Harris's book. I have not seen such an array of presentation illustrations in one place before. Some of the illustrations show plots that I frequently use with interesting additions; for example, the diagonal in pairwise scatter plots typically names variables, Harris has an illustration with histograms for each variable on the diagonal. What a great idea! Almost everyone knows how to construct pie charts. Harris's discussion of pie charts is six pages long. After a brief introduction, he gives a description and terminology, general characteristics, methods to incorporate descriptive and quantitative information, reference angles, showing changes over time, varying the size of circles proportional to the overall value of the data, highlighting slices of the pie, improving legibility, grouping sections of the chart, using pie charts instead of histograms, encodeing additional quantitative data, adding depth, overlapping pie charts, decographs, belt charts, and cirlce graphs. Who could have imagined that lowly pie charts were so versatile and communicative? Some have dogmatically asserted, "Pie charts are a very bad way of displaying information." Although I generally agree, Harris has given me much to think about and I will not be so averse to using them in the future.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keep this reference by your side to help your data tell its story 10 Sep 2006
By Todd I. Stark - Published on
I think anyone who solves serious problems by analyzing data will want to own a copy of this book. Being able to organize data into the right visual image can often make no less a difference than that between seeing the answer to the problem vs. getting lost in the complexity and variation in the data.

This is a uniquely comprehensive encyclopedia of graphical techniques with just enough detail on each technique to help you choose the right one for each situation.

There are no long, detailed explanations of principles. What you get are a few illustrations of each type of graph, with a general description of the strengths of that particular technique and several variations to show how it could be applied to different situations which share some central similarity.

One review criticized the alphabetic listing of the techniques, which is a reasonable critique in general. However I think the weakness is mitigated significantly by the way the graphs are grouped together into broad categories once you get to those. The alphabetically listed individual headings are mainly for cross-reference. It seems clear to me that the book wasn't intended to be read from front to back alphabetically, but that the reader would have a rough idea what sort of graph they needed, would start with the heading for that category, and then when neccessary, would refer to the cross-referenced section alphabetically.

In any case, I found it useful to place sticker-tabs on the pages for the main categories of graph that I care most about, and use those tabs as my starting place for choosing the right graphic. There are about ten broad categories of graphs I usually care most about, such as bar, area, column, line, and point graphs, control charts, statistical distribution charts, and time/activity charts. In addition there are about another dozen or so big categories of topics about graphs in general, such as choosing the right aspect ratio, the right font, and the right scale.

Don't get the wrong idea here, none of these topics is covered in great detail, this book is wonderful *index* to visual techniques for showing data for operational purposes but it is not a detailed how-to or an academic treatise on the individual techniques. Also, the book is not intended for creating flashy presentation or marketing graphics, nor does it cover argument maps, truth maps, or any other single sort of conceptual maps in any great detail (although it does touch on the topic in general).

A welcome bonus is that the bibliography is particularly well selected, and not just a list of popular books on graphs. Some of his references are difficult to get and I suspect that some of these sources may even out of print, but some of them like Tukey's work and William Cleveland's texts are well worth searching for.

This is an indispensible encyclopedia of operational information graphics for helping you to help data tell its own story in its clearest and most revealing light, whether you are trying to manage the quality of a process or track down the source of a problem. The examples are extremely well chosen and representative, and the explanations are concise and helpful in a way that lets you use this as a quick reference and not just as a textbook.
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