Tag Archives: Edward Tufte

Ethical Responsibility

Making an evidence presentation is a moral act as well as an intellectual activity. To maintain standards of quality, relevance, and integrity for evidence, consumers of presentations should insist that presenters be held intellectually and ethically responsible for what they show and tell. Thus consuming a presentation is also an intellectual and a moral activity.

Edward Tufte, Beautiful Evidence

This quote encourages me to assume ethical responsibility when using data to convey a specific message through information. Sometimes, data are misrepresented and can be done on purpose or just by a honest mistake. When it is done on purpose, it is to distort the data and to show something else. If someone wants to prove an argument, he may reach for the first bit of evidence but when closely examined can be very little supportive.

Below is a good example of misrepresentation of data by Nathan Yau:

Bush-cuts-625x461

Available at: http://flowingdata.com/2012/08/06/fox-news-continues-charting-excellence/

Fox News used this chart to show the change in the top tax rate if the Bush tax cuts expire. They show the difference between now and for 2013. The height of the 2013 bar is around five times higher. But it is not the case. When the chart is carefully examined, the vertical axis starts at 34 not at zero. The first thing we do when we look at a bar chart is to compare the height of the bars, thus it is misrepresentation of data.

Fox-chart-corrected

Available at: http://flowingdata.com/2012/08/06/fox-news-continues-charting-excellence/

When the bar chart is done properly, with the vertical axis starting at zero, it can be seen that the difference between the two is not 5 times but only 4.6%.

Data can also be misrepresented if they are partly chosen from a whole set of data and therefore the outcome is completely distorted.

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Tufte, Edward (2006) Beautiful Evidence, Connecticut: Graphics Press LLC.

Yau, Nathan (2012) Visualize This: The Flowing Data Guide to Design, Visualization, and Statistics, Indiana: Wiley Publishing.

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Investigating into Information Design (General)

Megan Jaegerman has produced some of the finest news graphics when she worked at The New York Times from 1990 to 1998. She combined graphics, texts, tables and images to explain the content. Eward Tufte said “Her work is elegant, smart, finely detailed, inventive, and informative. A fierce researcher and reporter, she writes gracefully and precisely. Her best work is the best work in news graphics.”

Example 1:

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Available at http://www.edwardtufte.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=0002w4

An example of Megan Jaegerman infographics published in ‘The New York Times’ shows how an individual leaves his digital print behind unconsciously and which is latter used for targeted personalise marketing. The top part consists of illustrations showing numerous ways of digital print being left behind and the bottom part consists of short and clear explanation. There is a clear flow in both the illustrations and the description which are easy to understand. A Roman type is used for the title as it was published in a newspaper and sans serif types for other descriptions. It is an effective mean to educate the public as the viewer has less to read and more to understand with the aid of illustrations.

Example 2:

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Available at http://www.edwardtufte.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=0002w4

Another example of of Megan Jaegerman infographics published in ‘The New York Times’ showing the process of obtaining citizenship in the United States. Once again the designer has used a combination of both illustrations and description to convey the required information. The illustrations are monochrome but simple to understand. Arrows have been used to ease the reading flow as the flow is not straight forward. Sans serif type has been used for all written information. The descriptions are short precise and clear to understand.

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