Pretty Pictures and Shiny Jingling Keys

Maybe this is going to make me sound dumb, but the thing I liked best about Tufte’s book is his choice of images and examples. This is not a criticism of his book, either. I’ll touch on the subject matter of the book later. As I was reading it, I kept thinking about how interesting some of his choices of examples were. There are the obvious ones: the Challenger explosion and London epidemic in chapter two. I like that he used magic to discuss disinformation. He has some memorable individual images, as well. Two of those are the finger in the heart on page 57 and the two-page layout of bands on pages 90-91.
Chapter three, the one about magic, reminds me of one of the flaws of Tufte’s book. Sometimes his explanations are muddled. In that chapter, I had to reread a few paragraphs a few times to understand exactly what he means. That, of course, is a hazard with any book that describes bodily motions, for example, when he describes the coin trick in the second paragraph of page 60. I’m not sure what he means by “[h]eavy arrows conduct the rhythm of the images.” I assume that he means the motion represented by each line takes the same amount of time, but watching a video of the trick on Youtube is probably the best way to understand it. Again, I shouldn’t be too critical of Tufte on this point, because explaining those kinds of motions is difficult.
Ultimately, though, the chapter on magic illustrates a positive aspect of Tufte’s book. I like that he uses examples in magic to give his readers advice about teaching and giving presentations. In a sense, then, Tufte has written a visual book on rhetoric.

Finally, Visual Explanations offers some useful advice for webdesigners about communicating things visually. Right now, I’m thinking about the ear image on pages 73 and 74. The point we can take from that is that secondary elements, such as the lines defining the parts of the ear, need to be minimal (74). This has implications for web design, especially for sites with commentary on images.

Explore posts in the same categories: Design, Helpful Tricks, Jingly keys, Print

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