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Good vs. Great Info-graphics

September 7, 2008 , , ,

I am not a graphic designer by training, but great graphic design is a passion of mine. I am a huge fan of Edward Tufte and I believe that much info-graphics used in the media is really bad stuff–badly conceived and terribly executed. Once in a while, you see designs that really work in conveying quantitative or qualitative information in compelling, novel way. This interactive “spending map” in the online New York Times is a good (not great) example of strong info-graphics. I like that it visually maps quantitative data while trying to mimic a geographical map. It’s also easy to understand what they are getting at. I would give it a B+.

So, what’s the difference between good and great? Check out this excerpt from Edward Tufte’s book, Beautiful Evidence:

OK, so it’s really hard to see… but Tufte’s collection info-graphics are truly works of fine art. Great information graphics transfixes you and makes you stare, not only to decode information but also to marvel at it’s creative genius. It’s a rare find. 

 I highly recommend Beautiful Evidence for lovers of design and truly anyone who is in the field of marketing, market research, statistics or graphic arts. Beautiful Evidence also contains a chapter about the limitations of Powerpoint–documenting how a poorly presented PPT may have been responsible for the Columbia disaster. I’ll write more about Tufte in the future as I’ll be attending his workshop in Boston in November.


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