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on 21 February 2013
Most literature on infographics can be roughly divided into two groups: Purely practical how-to books which offer approaches and useful tips but often lack any kind of theoretical foundation that might help you tell the difference between good and bad infographics, and stop making bad ones - and high-brow academic opuses which do not easily translate into guidelines you'll be able to use in your everyday work.
We should therefore welcome Alberto Cairo's book as it places itself elegantly inbetween the two. Even though the author is still young, Alberto's background is quite impressive and suggests how he earned the experience and insight enabling him to write this book. Alberto Cairo was educated as a journalist but has been working with infographics at various esteemed publications, including award-winning El Mundo of Madrid and Época magazine of São Paulo, Brazil. He now teaches Information Graphics and Visualization at the School of Communication at the University of Miami. A true academic, Alberto is well-read and not afraid to share his knowledge with the rest of us, as well as teach us posh new words, such as "choropleth maps".
"The Functional Art" is a revised version of an earlier book in Spanish. Even though the subtitle says "An introduction to information graphics and visualization", this is hardly a read for beginners. Rather, I'd recommend it to everyone who seeks a deeper understanding of what they are actually dealing with when producing visual communication. Quite a large part of the book is about perception and cognition, how our eyes work and how our brain processes what they see.
Alberto builds up his argumentation carefully and logically and always tries to see problems from a reader's perspective which makes this book very useful, not least in an educational context. If I were to pick one quote, trying to distill the contents of this comprehensive volume into just one sentence - unfair as it would be, because this book contains much more - it might be this: "The role of an information architect is to anticipate the structuring process in the minds of our audience ... and generate order before people's brains try to do it on their own".
From an educator's point of view, there's a lot of added value on the DVD which comes with the book. In eleven well-produced video lessons, Alberto walks us through the main parts of his book and carefully explains the examples he chose to make his points. Obviously, the use of multimedia tools helps clarifying the chapter on animated and interactive graphics in particular and makes it even easier to comprehend.
The last chapters of "The Functional Art" have been devoted to in-depth interviews with ten so-called infographic "profiles" about their work, and my guess is there's an audience for this part of the book as well, even though I find the first two thirds more substantial.
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on 19 October 2012
For anybody starting out in the field of information graphics and visualisations, or for any journalists who work with designers - this is a must read.

The book is clearly laid out and very easy to read and understand. Its one of those books that you can delve into when you have 10 minutes to spare.

Cairo takes you through what makes a successful graphic, backing up his arguments with clear examples, both of his own work as well as others. He also goes into the cognitive aspects of our brains, but not in too scientific a way as to put anybody off.

The last part of the book is taken up with interviews conducted by Cairo with 10 designers at the top of their particular fields in information graphics and data visualisations. Full of interesting, colourful examples and a great resource.

I found it to be an excellent overview, a great resource, easily read and full of inspiration, even for someone like me who has been producing graphics for over 30 years. One to keep by your desk. Highly recomended
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on 11 March 2013
A very good and in depth look at data visualization put together by someone who clearly knows what he is talking about
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on 20 July 2015
A brilliant book. Readable, logical, informative, and full of insight and discovery. This is one of my very favourite books. The interviews at the end led me to look into the interviewees work which has led to more great discoveries for me.
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on 30 October 2012
Rather a disappointing book. It begins with a very rapid survey of basic features of graphics. It continues with personal experiences of a spanish/portuguese designer of newspaper graphics. These would be more interesting if they were printed on a scale large enough to read, preferably translated into English. The authour is mainly concerned about appearance, rather than use, and admires some graphics condemned by Tufte as 'chart-junk'.

A second portion discusses information graphics. This is a notoriously difficult field to discuss, and, although the author makes considerable efforts and provides generous links to on-line sources, he does not really overcome the difficulty of discussing dynamic processes in the static form of a book.

The book is bulked out with interviews with ten 'prominent' graphics designers, occupying pages 212-350. The author does not conceal his personal friendship with the interviewees, but the results have an unfortunately obsequious air.
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on 27 July 2014
Easy to read, liked the examples.
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