Edward Tufte: A Principled Man, A Man With Goals

In his book, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, info design guru Edward Tufte lays out some excellent principles that we are going to follow as we design our own information visualizations in Design 4.  Keep these lists handy and refer to them frequently!


•Graphical excellence is the well-designed presentation of interesting data—a matter of substance, of statistics, and of design.
•Graphical excellence consists of complex ideas communicated with clarity, precision, and efficiency.
•Graphical excellence is what gives to the viewer the greatest number of ideas in the shortest time with the least ink in the smallest space.
•Graphical excellence is nearly always multivariate (involving two or more variables).
•Graphical excellence requires telling the truth about data.


•Above all else – Show the data.
•Induce the viewer to think about the substance rather than about methodology, design, technology of graphic production, or something else.
•Avoid distorting the data story. Be truthful in the representation.
•Present many numbers in a small space.
•Make large data sets coherent.
•Encourage the eye to compare different pieces of data.
•Reveal the data at several levels of detail, from a broad overview to the fine structure.

¹From The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte, p. 51

²From The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte, p. 13