Edward Tufte at Intelligence Squared


Decided I was feeling well enough to go to a talk last night by Edward Tufte - God of information design. (like I was going to miss that...)

Needless to say it was fairly awesome. Enough for me to tell you it's available online.

Honestly if you ever design anything with data i.e. content i.e. anything - it's worth watching this long but incredibly thought-provoking man. He makes his insights just as relevant to web-pages and slides and art as to data-vis. or statistical analysis.

Here are my take-aways
6 principles of evidence:
  1. Compare. Nothing is visible without contrast
  2. Causality & Mechanics. Aim to describe how or why it went from A to B as well as the fact of going from A to B.
  3. Use multidata sets - data works best when it is contextualised by other data sets - i.e. allows comparison & causality
  4. Tell a story - when the content becomes secondary to the form all is lost.
  5. Integrate - all is content - pictures and words only got separated at Gutenburg (necessarily by process). Humans will always try and integrate words and pictures.
  6. Be credible. Document every source.

More generally:
  • Put it on the same page. Non-adjacent content is non-comparable (example ppt)
  • Humans are good at deciphering. NYTimes homepage has 400 links and still gets 10m daily users
  • Web sites which Pitch have the ethics of the marketplace not the validity of websites that inform.
  • Put content over process. Don't just do/use what is easiest/you know/you're told to. Do what is right for the data,
  • Don't cherry pick - data only has validity when it has integrity.
  • Only drug-dealers and web designers call their customers users
If you're interested I found some proper, fleshed out notes here by Mia Ridge
and some sweet sketch notes by someone called Lucy : http://twitpic.com/1p7h00