Went to Edward Tufte's seminar today downtown. Highly recommended to anyone that is a fan of his work. Most of the time is spent working through examples in his texts, so familiarity is not necessary, but is beneficial. His delivery is lively, and I was inspired to come to a key realization regarding my magnum opus on web design (mapping the content and navigation of websites in an original rhetorical framework). I'll refrain from sharing what that is, since out-of-context it would make little or no sense. A small part of me hopes I will be able to complete and unveil my thoughts soon (the other part remains in touch with the demands of reality! [not much writing time, excepting this very scatter-brained blog]).
I recorded the first portion of his lecture on tape, only to learn at lunchtime that the mic wasn't good enough to actually pick up his speech eminating from the Bose speakers (of course) at the front of the ballroom. Ah well. Nevertheless, I did record some notes on the paper. For those of you designers out there, it's worth repeating his six fundamental principles of analytical design:
- Show comparisons. Ask yourself "compared to what?"
- Show causality. Convey mechanisms and account for interventions.
- Show more than one or two variables. We live in a multi-variate world. Real world events always involve several dimensions of data, subject to change over time.
- Completely integrate word, number, and image. Don't separate data according to its mode of production. As a corollary, as much as is possible and reasonable, don't separate data according to your intended mode of presentation.
- Document everything and tell people about it. Give credit where credit is due; all data comes from somewhere — tell where. Documentation builds credibility — statistics should be supported with footnotes and annotation.
- Presentations largely stand and fall according to the quality, relevance, and integrity of the content; if your numbers are boring, find the numbers that are worth telling. At the worst, at least let the information pass through unharmed.