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23 Design, Data Visualization and Presentation Quotes from Edward Tufte

Infographics have become a high octane fuel for Eloqua’s content marketing engine. We’re proud that our infographics have been embraced by the B2B marketing community and the broader public, alike. But we know we can do even better. That’s why I recently attended “Presenting Data and Information,” a one-day course taught by the world’s best-known expert in data visualization, Edward Tufte.

Tufte was an information alchemist: He effortlessly turned data into story after story. But what impressed me most was not his proficiency in visualizing information (I’d expected that, of course), but rather his skill in expressing it verbally. He spoke succinctly, elegantly, and precisely.

I spent the day taking feverish notes, and I am happy to share the highlights with you. The following are 23 of my favorite Tufte quotes on presenting data and information:

  1. If a diagram is worth 1000 words, then it’s worth 1000 words of our attention. < Tweet this!

  2. Too often diagrams rely solely on one type of data or stay at one level of analysis. < Tweet this!

  3. A metaphor for good information design is a map. Hold any diagram against a map and see how it compares.
    < Tweet this!

  4. There are two goals when presenting data: convey your story and establish credibility. < Tweet this!

  5. The single biggest threat to the credibility of a presentation is cherry-picked data. < Tweet this!

  6. When watching a presentation ask yourself: “Am I seeing the result of information or information selection?"       < Tweet this!

  7. You want an open mind, but not an empty head. Just because something is a new or fashionable alternative, doesn’t mean we need to get stupid when judging it. < Tweet this!

  8. Can the same image prompt different stories and memories in different people? That’s a good test for a “super-graphic.” < Tweet this!

  9. Today’s graphics use multiple shapes and colors to cover up a paucity of data. < Tweet this!

  10. Clutter and confusion are not attributes of data - they are shortcomings of design. < Tweet this!

  11. There is no such thing as information overload. There is only bad design. < Tweet this!

  12. The idea of “sparklines” is to be approximately right rather than exactly wrong. < Tweet this!

  13. Information overload isn’t as great as you would imagine. Most of the internet is redundant. < Tweet this!

  14. The miracle of the iPad is that it removes all “administrative debris” from the screen. The entire screen is dedicated to content. < Tweet this!

  15. The grand principal of analytical of design is derived directly from the principles of analytical thinking.
    < Tweet this!

  16. There are only two industries that describe their customers as users: illegal drugs and software companies.
    < Tweet this!

  17. If you look after truth and goodness, beauty looks after herself. < Tweet this!

  18. The core problem with UI: It segregates information by mode of production. < Tweet this!

  19. Zero out your interface. < Tweet this!

  20. Apple designs the content/user relationship first, and then the software is the byproduct of the experience.
    < Tweet this!

  21. Never underestimate your audience. It’s the most common mistake made by presenters. It is not about you anymore. It’s about your audience’s relationship with your content. < Tweet this!

  22. The best design gets out of the way between the viewer’s brain and the content. < Tweet this!

  23. Always finish early. < Tweet this!

Have you attended a Tufte course? If so, please share your thoughts here.

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