Tufte Nerd Out

“…the nature or matter of the Milky Way itself, which, with the aid of the spyglass, may be observed so well that all the disputes that for so many generations have vexed philosophers are destroyed by visible certainty, and we are liberated from wordy arguments.”

Galileo Galilei, Sidereus Nuncius (Venice, 1610).

As mentioned earlier, I attended a one-day course taught by Edward Tufte on Tuesday. I had been signed up for this training a few months in advance, but for some reason, it wasn’t until I arrived to the event that I began to realize he was one of those “Informatics-celebrities” I had read about in college. The course was titled “Presenting Data and Information” and it was hardly what I expected, but in the best sort of way.

The course emphasized the importance in visualizing data in its ability to reveal truth. This is the type of stuff I get excited about. (Well, information dissemination in general, really.) This is why I like usabilty in how it enables users the get information they want, why I tear out cool charts from magazines, or why I love learning about a new way someone’s conveyed information visually (think tag cloud, sparklines, etc.). Essentially, this is what makes me an INFO-nerd.


While I understand why information dissemination is important vital, er everything, it was awesome to hear his stories illustrating how powerful a visualization can be. Whether it’s a handout of a table given to jurors in a mafia case, the map chart that revealed the source of a cholera outbreak, or that vitally important project management plan–data alone does not suffice if it’s not presented properly.

Anyway, last thing I want to do here is attempt to summarize 6 hours of information visualization. But rather, if you’re at all interested in data or design, I wanted to highly recommend to take any chance you get to attend this course. You also get a copy of his four books, which I may add, are rather nice. Anyway, I have reading to do. But if you catch me in person, ask me for more on the stuff covered in the course and I’d be happy to oblige.

Links to the Books:

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

  1. Sounds like you had a lot of fun. Wish I could have gone!

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