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Edward Tufte in Philly

by David Sturtz

Edward Tufte gave a short presentation last week, which was sponsored by the Philadelphia AIGA and University of the Arts. I just wanted to give a quick rundown of my notes:

Six principles of analytical design:

  • Compared to what? Point of reference
  • Show causality
  • Show multi-variate information
  • Integrate word, number, and image
  • Document (cite) everything and tell people about it
  • “Content-posessed business” (Note that Napoleon is not mentioned in Minard’s famous map, it’s not about him.)

Intellectual/cognitive task —> Design principle

“Good design is clear thinking in action.”

Tufte then spoke for a short while about Sparklines, word-sized graphs. They employ typographic-level detail to communicate trends and patterns. Check out for a PHP-based library for the creation of these graphs. There’s also a Plug-in for Word and a technique using Python/matplotlib, Javascript/SVG or Flash/ColdFusion.

At the very end he showed several slides of his sculptural works. He seemed to have a lot more fun talking about them than about his “serious” work.

Next entry: Peter Morville’s Ambient Findability