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on 7 December 2001
This book should be a compulsory read for all graphic designers dealing with data visualisation.
The clearly focused chapters, all with superb illustrations, take the reader through some of the best and worst graphics and charts ever printed, with Tufte providing crystalline insights and techniques that will stick in your mind and make your own work better.
Whilst this book deals only with printed graphics, I think that the lessons learned are even more valuable as a foundation for interactive media designers. With the added dimensions of time and user involvement comes the potential to commit far worse design-crimes than many of the examples laid bare in this book!
Like I said: Read it before you make a really bad mistake!
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on 2 February 1998
This is the first of Edward Tufte's brilliant trilogy on how information should be displayed. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information is about pictures of numbers. Envisioning Information is about picturing nouns. Visual Explanations is about picturing verbs. All three are beautiful artefacts in their own right, encapsulating the author's ideas in the actual production of the book. Each is crammed with examples of good and bad practice over the past centuries.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 3 November 2009
The book is simply stunning. It consigns most of the graphical designs of the consulting industry into the dustbin of bad practice and presents some slightly unconventional alternatives, which actually do look more compelling on second thought. The standard rules of avoiding lie factors in graphics, maximising the data / ink ratio, the integration of graphics and text are all spot on and show how statistics, when done right, is far from boring, tending far more towards the fascinating instead.

The book also provides some splendid examples of good graphical design, shockingly most of them fairly old - i.e. the field did not progress nearly as much as should be expected, with most of the progress being pre-20th century, with several unfortunate steps back from the 1920s to 1970s (shown as well). Another interesting facet is the historical development of methods for presenting quantitative information, which is interesting in its own right.

This book should be essential reading for anyone who relies on visually presenting quantitative information and is an absolute must in management consulting.
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on 7 December 2013
This book has good and bad aspects. First let me look at the bad part: the text Tufte has written. The problem is, most of it is founded on a single principle: maximise the information-to-ink ratio. Now as a scientist myself, this sounded like a great idea. It would not just improve your graphs (and similar diagrams), but do it in a fairly systematic way. Why add more stuff to your graph if it doesn't add any more information? It will only confuse the reader for no benefit. It seems so simple. So obvious. And yet it is 100% wrong.

The problem with this idea is that it is based on a fundamentally flawed view of human perception. We don't just see individual blobs of inks (or darkened pixels), so that adding more makes it harder. Instead we see the various shapes they form (search the web for "Kanizsa's triangle"!), and we should be aiming to reduce the complexity of this. For example, if you have several graphs next to each other, then putting a box around each will keep them visually distinct, so you can focus on one at a time with no conscious effort. If you leave out the bounding boxes then they become a jumble of tiny objects that take some effort to group visually. A very small amount of effort, admittedly, but you've made it harder for no reason. But Tufte HATES putting boxes around things! After all, you've certainly added more ink, and added no more information, so by his flawed rule you have made things unambiguously worse.

So now for the good. Why should you buy this book if not to read it? Because it is filled with pictures representing data from a myriad of sources. Some of them are effective, some are not. Some are beautiful, some are ugly. All are worth reflecting on.

In conclusion: Ok, I exaggerate when say "do not read it". Go ahead and read what has Tufte has to say, since it too is worth reflecting on. But make sure you bear in mind that everything he says is based on a flawed principle. So when he tells you that you should get rid of gridlines on a graph or in a table, consider whether it's really a good idea. Perhaps you shouldn't, or perhaps you should just make them lighter. Perhaps even, after all, you really should remove them. Just don't take his word for it that it's a guaranteed win.
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on 20 March 1997
This book, and the two companion volumes ("Envisioning Information" and "Visual Explanations") are must-haves for anyone who is in the business or producing or interpreting
statistical information.

Tufte starts with a simple proposition: graphs and graphics
that represent statistical data should tell the truth. It's
amazing how often designers of such graphics miss this basic
point. Tufte clearly and entertainingly elucidates the most
common "graphical lies" and how to avoid them.

Read this
book and you'll never look at a newspaper or presentation
graphics the same way again -- you'll be left wondering if
the author *intended* to lie about what the data were saying, or if he/she just didn't know any better.

Another reviewer claimed that this book talks about how to make graphics accurate, not beautiful. He's right in some sense, but who cares? There are a million books on how to make "pretty" graphical displays, but precious few on how to make useful ones. These books are they.
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on 8 November 2005
I think I made Tufte very rich. If I didn't it was not my fault. I was a Displays Manager with IBM and used his book to illustrate how colour & pixels could enhance information. I developed a presentation that used his work to exploit data and its visualisation. As a result I sold one hell of a lot of screens (IBM 3279 colour screens - the first ever colour screens - and at £3,000 a crack I sold 6,000 in the first year alone). I also sold a lot of Tufte's books. The quite brilliant example of Minard's graph of Napoleon's campaign in Russia (contained within the book) would keep an audience occupied for 2 hours - and not a yawn - so if ever the Good Professor decides to make a Will, he should remember me and I hope he predececeases me by a goodly margin so I can drink to his memory in style.
I think Professor Tufte's product is quite safe and unlikely to cause injury or death (Amazon Product Compliance Statement).
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on 23 October 1996
This book is an excellent style guide on how to present
data in graphical format. Every idea is clearly explained
and backed up with excellent visual examples. Tufte
emphasizes the use of graphics as a tool that accelerates
the flow of information to the reader instead of an
ornamental attachment. Latest advances in personal
computing and world-wide web has made this point even
more important - just think about the amount of junk we
get to see on a typical web page. Tufte criticizes the
increasingly familiar case of graphical data distortion
in publications with striking examples and offers basic
guidelines for avoiding this problem.

The book is overall very well written and designed. I
consider "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information"
required reading for anybody who needs to present or use
data in graphical form.
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on 17 January 2002
These books appeal on so many levels. They are informative, interesting and entertaining. Beautifully produced and very well written. One hardly notices one is being educated.
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on 14 December 1998
When it was published in 1983, it was an insightful work, that provided guidance for a limited number of designers and academics working in fields where data interpretation was critical. With the growth of the Web, this book, and it's companion "Visual Explanations" have become seminal, like McLuhan's work became.
Modern commerce and entertainment is now being forced into a matrix of 800 * 600 pixels: even more constraining than the constraints of a printed page. Tufte urges us on to get the the core of our intent, to separate the wheat from the chaff, at a time when media is reinventing itself faster than artists can keep up.
No professional or technologist can afford not to read Tufte's work. As Tufte ends the book "Design is Choice". Choices must be informed.
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on 19 August 2011
This book is very well produced and executed. Heavy use of graphics, clear text, excellent glosses on the side of each page to highlight important reading. The graphics are generally lovely examples of how to optimise your graphic design so as to "channel" the reader toward the take-home messages of quantitative data.

These examples intersperse the text very neatly. Indeed, the layout of the book itself is meant to be a talking point, and is certainly very rational and a pleasure to flick through.

However, I find the examples given can be repetitive and the text can lack depth without a sense of depth to the analysis. I would have preferred something a little academic in the reading. As it is, it reads quite like an online tutorial (which are freely, widely available...). In fact, I think you could perhaps garner more from a well-chosen blog or two.

Much of the "exemplar designs" selected by Tufte are also repetitive, especially between his books. While the examples in question are undeniably outstanding (e.g. particularly elegant train schedules and Minaud's military escapades from Paris to Moscow), I find myself feeling, "I get the point! Show me something new!"

Lovely as a reference book, but if you've already done extensive reading on this sort of thing (on blogs or otherwise), you're probably looking for more depth -- so maybe try elsewhere. If you're looking for a reference book that will consolidate the basics in a beautiful way, then this is an excellent, appealing solution!

(I am very happy with my purchase!)
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