Speak for Yourself

Claire Duffy's blog about public speaking and communication (in real life). Speak well, do well!

Lovely Voices: Edward Tufte, the Chart Master

110417_EdwardTufte-1411 “Good information design  is clear thinking made visible” said Edward Tufte,  who wrote (and self-published)  The Visual Display of Quantitiative Information back in 1982. Tufte has been  a  statistician and professor emeritus of political sciencestatistics, and computer science at Yale University. He’s also a sculptor, a teacher ….and I am guessing, a real cool dude. So what joy to find that he not only thinks, writes, and designs with  clarity, but that he speaks that way, in  a beautiful, natural voice.

Way before the digital era and  the info-graphic, Tufte laid down principles of good information design that are still the gold standard. His book is  a classic.

Tufte’s four books — the latest is Beautiful Evidence — have sold almost 2 million copies.  The Visual Display of Quantitiative Information is  one of the top 100 books of the 20th century on Amazon, and reading it changed my life.

Tufte cares about the integrity of numbers. He treats information reverently. He wants us to present information that is  beautiful, meaningful, and accurate. To assume, (as Salon writes),that we have  a smart, curious audience  willing to explore complex information as long as it’s presented with grace and clarity.  

He  battles ‘against decoration replacing substance’,pravda970310 and  reveals the  deceptions which bad graphs make possible. Chartjunk  is his term for  anything that’s there just for embellishment,  and his  dictum that we should  ‘minimise the non-data ink’ (ie ensure every line or dot carries meaning)  is a rule for all communicators  to live by.

Tufte is a philosopher king who reigns over his field largely because he invented it. For years, graphic designers were regarded as decorators…Tufte introduced … math and science to the discipline and…over the years his influence has changed the way places like the Wall Street Journal and NASA display data.

Here are highlights of  him talking about Beautiful Evidence.

Here he’s  at the Metropolitan Museum of Art about Medieval manuscripts:  Pen and Parchment – The Beautiful Evidence of Medieval Drawings

And click here  to compare  him to Gene Simmons of Kiss. Which sonorous smoky baritone belongs to whom?


2 comments on “Lovely Voices: Edward Tufte, the Chart Master

  1. miriamchaplyn

    Have you seen the film Public Speaking starring Fran Lebowitz ?http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1734477/

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