Edward Tufte – Father of DataViz

It’s funny that literally within hours of relaunching this site, I had two or three friends ping me to ask if I was familiar with the works of Edward Tufte. As my mind does, it went immediately to a favourite film quote, “People are always asking me if I know Tyler Durden.” Edward Tufte is an economist and statistician who pioneered the study of data visualization and is perhaps most singularly responsible for elevating the study above merely giving a pretty face to a boring chart.

Visual ExplanagtionsHis books are the definitive texts on effective presentation of statistical data. As he first explored his field in the early 80s, he surveyed hundreds of examples of data presentment evaluating different methods of selecting and modelling data, and how those different methods work together to create effective or failed communication.

The thing that really makes his work fascinating is the breadth of scope that he encompasses in his exploration. Tufte evaluates examples of data visualization from all across history, and across such diverse fields as meterology, photography, modern art, kinesthetics, cartography, epidemiology, and of course really obvious fields like marketing and propaganda.

A very dear friend lent me a copy of Visual Explanations a year or so ago and I immediately became a disciple, so I owe as huge a debt of gratitude to her for turning me on to this brilliant source of inspiration as I do to him. It will truly be a challenge for me to share my own thoughts and views without seeming derivative of Tufte’s life work.

 

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