Tufte At The Manhattan Center

Last Thursday I had attended the one day course on presenting information by Edward Tufte.

The full day lecture style talk consisted of jumping through 4 of his books (which are included in the cost of the day) as he takes you through his thesis about how to present data and information so that it is understandable, credible, and in context.

<txp:pnh_mf_hreview summary=”Review of Edward Tufte’s Course” type=”event” rating=”5”>

Some may only know Tufte for his anti-powerpoint position (or those who don’t know him, key in on PP like in these slashdot comments), and he surely is that, but its only as part of a bigger thesis about presenting information in ways that aid digestion and understanding. A big part of which is the notion that data is inherently multi-dimensional and textured and partial sentences as bullet items or 3D rainbow bar charts filled with “chart junk” are too “low resolution” of a device to convey any of that.

The 360 dollar question for me going into the day was that though I was sure it would be an interesting day, would it at all be relevant to me as a web site builder. Its now a few days later and I’d have to say a qualified yes, tough not always directly. If I had the need to prepare a lot of presentations or regularly work in a data heavy industry (vs. more marketing or application type products) I’d say the answer was easily yes. But while I don’t, the day did solidify some things about general information consumption as well as plant a few seeds in my head. It also peaked my interest in a few new tools like sparklines, and a really new tool called paper—both used to convey a high density information in small spaces.

If you have the opportunity I’d definitely recommend attending one of his future lectures. Though much if not all of the material was covered in his books (one of which I was already familiar with), I thought the emphasis and complete picture provided by Edward Tufte in person was worth the time out of my typical work week.

Now, I just hope I don’t take too much more time out of my day reading through his site’s message board.


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