Sunday, October 17, 2010

Edward Tufte Creates Art and Information Design

Information designer, Edward Tufte (right), (the Da Vinci of Data), has opened a gallery/museum called ET Modern in NYC's Chelsea district showing his sculptures as well as some of his information design work. On Saturday's you can get a tour of the space from Tufte himself (I was star-struck).

While the gallery is dominated by his metal sculptures, Tufte is possibly the greatest authority on what is called "information design" (charts, graphs, diagrams) and author of several books including, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. This book redefined the field of information design and was named one of Amazon's 100 best books of the century. President Barack Obama recently appointed Tufte to an independent panel that advises the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board (tracking how stimulus funds are spent).

The heads of Fortune 500 companies (even Bill Gates) know Tufte and have his books on their shelves. Tufte's simple but powerful philosophy is to get rid of ornamentation, or what he calls "chartjunk", and let the data speak for itself. Visual communication is about visual thinking and visual evidence, not about commercial art. With increasingly heavy amounts of data and information, what's needed is a clear, analytical, statistical, quantitative presentation of the information rather than decoration. He calls this restraint "the least effective difference." He is famous for his pronouncement "Power corrupts. PowerPoint corrupts absolutely."

Click on the heading above to learn more about Tufte and his new gallery. (Notice how his web site exemplifies his philosophy.)

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