My Reflections From Tufte

I learned a lot when I saw Edward Tufte last week.  I have increased ^ my knowledge of data presentation (the little carrot in this sentence is an example of mixing symbols directly into narrative).   Here are some more take-aways:

  • We get so much into our graphs, it is easy to lose the power of a simple table (people read them all of the time in sports and market papers – why do we think people need fancy picture-graphs).
  • Sort data by performance.  We often see data sorted by alphabetical order which doesn’t allow people to see trends.
  • Make content rich and give a data dump to allow the viewer to make their own conclusions.  Viewers will find a point that hooks them, we do not need to direct them (unless you are in sales). 
  • Rich content = More than 1:1 comparisons.  For instance, instead of just showing process cycle times – add data about time available, visit type, patient acuity, etc.  Separate tables and graphs do not allow the viewer to see how every element is connected.  Multivariate data should coexist and not be separate!

I was frustrted with one thing from his course.  The majority of the graphs he loves need a drawing tool and not possible with Excel.  Some of his advice boils down to “nice to know but I don’t have the tools to apply it yet”.

The course was worth the time and money and I encourage anybody to see him.  You get all of his books which pretty much make up for the price.

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