“Above all else show the data” – Edward Tufte

The Gospel According to Tufte explains Tufte’s 5 Laws of Data-Ink:

One of Tufte’s major themes is the good graphics present their message as simply as possible. A good principle, surely, but as vague as the Christian theme of “Love Thy Neighbor”. Who is thy neighbor? And what is graphical simplicity?To turn simplicity into more practical ideas, Tufte defined the following:
  • Definition 1 (DATA-INK) -The non-erasable core of a graphic.
  • Definition 2 (DATA-INK RATIO)
    = data-ink/total ink used to print the graphic
    = the proportion of a graphic’s ink devoted to the non-redundant display of data-information
    =1.0 − proportion of a graphic that can be erased withoutloss of data-information
The concept of “data-ink” doesn’t completely solve the problem because the question of what actually is “non-erasable” depends on both the problem and the readership. Thisconcept is much more concrete than the vaguer idea of “simplicity”, however. Tufte further elaborates his concepts in the form of five maxims.
  • Above all else show the data.
  • Maximize the data-ink ratio
  • Erase non-data-ink.
  • Erase redundant data-ink.
  • Revise and edit.

Here, exclusive to Vulture, is another excerpt from Tufte’s new book that explains precisely why PowerPoint doesn’t work.


via Edward Tufte and the Triumph of Good Design: Another Case Study — Vulture.

Tufte has criticized the way Microsoft PowerPoint is typically used. In his essay “The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint”, Tufte criticizes many properties and uses of the software:

It is used to guide and to reassure a presenter, rather than to enlighten the audience;

It has unhelpfully simplistic tables and charts, resulting from the low resolution of early computer displays;

The outliner causes ideas to be arranged in an unnecessarily deep hierarchy, itself subverted by the need to restate the hierarchy on each slide;

Enforcement of the audience’s lockstep linear progression through that hierarchy (whereas with handouts, readers could browse and relate items at their leisure);

Poor typography and chart layout, from presenters who are poor designers and who use poorly designed templates and default settings (in particular, difficulty in using scientific notation);

Simplistic thinking, from ideas being squashed into bulleted lists, and stories with beginning, middle, and end being turned into a collection of disparate, loosely disguised points. This may present a misleading facade of the objectivity and neutrality that people associate with science, technology, and “bullet points”.

via Edward Tufte – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint”,  via 1 – presentations.pdf.

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