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Envisioning Information By Edward Tufte

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Javier Velasco

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User since: 14 Dec 1998

Articles written: 16

I had read many impressive comments about the trio of books of Professor Edward

R. Tufte. All of them were extremely favorable, yet vague. This made my curiosity

about these books grow day after day.

When I finally bought "href="" target="blank" tilte="Book description in Tufte's website, opens in new window">Envisioning

Information," and opened the book I was impressed. From the quality of the paper and print to the contents themselves

and the way they are arranged on the page, this book is beautiful. Every little detail has been carefully

studied. Professor Tufte had such high demands for the production of the books

that he had to build his own editorial.

Sample page (105k)

Most of the pages or twofolds can be read as a single unit (or case study),

which display an amazing synergy between text and diagrams, with notes like

"in the image to the left is an example of..." that produces a very strong sensation

of the narrative. Once immersed in the reading you feel like Prof. Tufte were

there, explaining his points personally to you. Each illustration has been reproduced

with such care to detail that they show the qualities of the original print.

This was achieved by several special ink colors in the production. For instance,

the old drawings of Galileo Galilei are framed by a subtle cream color, which

make them stand out from the rest of the page, achieving the effect of aged

paper. The contents of the explanations are irrefutable, each explanation is

very clear and precise, the evidence evident.

The central problem of this study is presented in the first paragraph of the


The world is complex, dynamic, multidimensional; the paper is static, flat.

How are we to represent the rich visual world of experience and measurement on mere flatland?


  • Escaping Flatland

  • Micro/Macro Readings

  • Layering and Separation

  • Small Multiples

  • Color and Information

  • Narratives of Space and Time

  • Epilogue

This book explores the best uses for the presentation of multi-dimensional

phenomena into the two dimensions of paper, flatland , it does so with

such passion and clarity, that once you reach the middle of the book, you start

wishing for it to grow longer as each page passes.

Envisioning Information presents years of history of all kinds of maps, timetables,

multi-dimensional graphs and instructions. Covering topics that include Geometry, Medicine,

Dance, Astronomy, Geography, Human Transportation. One of the longest examples

presentsan evolution of the presentation of solar spot observations, from Galileo's

sketches to computer generated graphs. Although at first sight, this book is

not directly related to web development, the knowledge presented can be applied

to any discipline. Every professional activity is faced with the task of presenting

measurements, comparations, observations, conceptual designs or visual designs:

Envisioning Information can help anyone deliver better documents and make his

message clear, regardless of his or her field of work. As described in the book:

The principles of information design are universal - like mathematics - and

are not tied to unique features of a particlar language or culture. Consequently,

our examples are widely distributed in space and time: illustrations come from

17 countries and 7 centuries, and, for that matter, 3 planets and one star.

This book is a real treasure. I highly recommend it.

The Tufte trio, as described in the Tufte


The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

The classic book on statistical graphics, charts, tables.

Envisioning Information

This book celebrates escapes from the flatlands of both paper and computer

screen, showing superb displays of high-dimensional complex data.

Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative

is about pictures of verbs, the representation of mechanism and motion,

process and dynamics, causes and effects, explanation and narrative.

mantruc is an oldtime evolter from Chile.

his thing is communication, what he most likes about the internet is how it allows people to communicate at many levels, and he thinks that is the best proof of that.

he has worked in web development since 1997 as designer, developer and information architect.

his expression is photogtaphy.

Javier is currently working as an associate researcher for the Center for Web Research, part of the Department of Computer Science at Universidad de Chile.

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