I recently had the pleasure of attending one of Edward Tufte‘s workshops here in Boston. To my shock and awe, the master of data visualization commanded a crowd of the size you’d expect for Charlie Sheen’s new traveling road show. I had no idea there were so many data geeks in my ‘hood!
Tufte is The Man
Can I tell you a secret? Tufte is the man; he doesn’t disappoint. Along with whipping out one of Galileo’s original observation books (baller!), he kicked off the morning with one of the most stunning sites I have ever seen- Steven Malinowski’s Music Animation Machine. Suddenly, the hills were alive with the sound of data.
You must watch this video. It’s required viewing.
Totally bananas to see the visual depiction of a beautiful piece of music, and through the simplicity of an intuitive map of colorful chords, be able to anticipate each subsequent note.
The Verdict: Go Get Your Tufte On
I’m not a big fan of throwing down $ for conferences and seminars, but this was totally worth it. Just the experience of setting aside time to contemplate Tufte’s impressive books was worth it. I’ve had The Visual Display of Quantitative Data sitting on my coffee table for months, and have barely cracked it open. Aside from giving me a few moments to indulge in his work, Tufte’s guidance truly changed the way I approach data visualization. Sign up. Do it.
- No matter how beautiful your interface is, it would better if there was less of it.
- On sparklines: It’s better to be approximately right rather than exactly wrong.
- As a presenter, provide intellectual leadership.
- Use all information necessary to convey your message and don’t predetermined the means by which you convey it.
- Illustrate causality; annotate causal relationships and be consistent in describing connections.
- Don’t dumb down data with distracting visuals.
- Refine information into core data points and causal relationships; establish credibility through mastering detail and incorporating independent data.
- Celebrate that people have been kind enough to look at your material; you don’t have to be present in that transaction. Your audience can read selectively what’s relevant to their own interests.
- Let people use their own cognitive style instead of Microsoft’s (i.e. PowerPoint) to evaluate the material.
- Never put data in alphabetical order. Order by performance.
- Talent imitates, but genius steals. (interpretation of T.S. Eliot’s quote)