User:Beltzner/Notes From Tufte Course
Edward Tufte - Presenting Data
- 1 Fundamental Truths of Visualizing Information
- 2 ex: Euclid's Geometry (Envisioning, p16)
- 3 ex: Napoleon's March to Moscow (poster)
- 4 "GRAND PRINCIPLES" OF ANALYTICAL DESIGN
- 5 ex: Gallileo's Discovery of Saturn & Sunspots (Envisioning, p18)
- 6 ex: Shiner's Refuting of Sunspots (Envisioning, p19)
- 7 ex: John Gotti's "spreadsheet of crime" acquittal chart (Envisioning, p31)
- 8 Scaling, Explaining Magnitude (Explanations, p16-24)
- 9 Showing Causality (Explanations, p30)
- 10 Explaining Magic (Explanations, p55)
- 11 Parallelism (Explanations, p82)
- 12 Sparklines (Beautiful Evidence 4pg Advance)
- 13 GUI (Explanations, p146-7)
- 14 Cognitive Style of PowerPoint (essay of same name)
- 15 Tips for Delivering Presentations
Fundamental Truths of Visualizing Information
Most interesting data is multivariate
- yet our communication techniques are 2d flatland
- escaping flatland is key
Progress for communication devices is expressed in an increase of information resolution
- "what's my rate of information transfer" in a presentation
- corresponds to progress in intellectual history
- Gallileo's time was 10^-3 through 10^6
- our time is hundreds of times more than that
ex: Euclid's Geometry (Envisioning, p16)
- first excellent example of escaping flatland
- "people should put names on their work" to signal responsibility / pride
- paper is good beause euclidean geometry works in 2d
- triangle "ABC" :
- don't force users to decode using a legend when a label will suffice
- people come to learn, not to decode your design/encoding for information
PRINCIPLE: minimize decode time and increase cognitive appreciation time
- proof of pythygorean theorem requires 44 round trips between text and diagram, each requiring a decode step
- visual proof is 1-step; "behold"
- Euclid used physical models in his book to escape flatland
QUOTE: "Notice these are sidenotes? This is where God wants footnotes."
ex: Napoleon's March to Moscow (poster)
QUOTE: "This is war and peace as told by a visual Tolstoy."
- any policy decision is based on evidence of causality
- the map is merely descriptive, showing the location of the bad news
- temperature scale illustrates causality; it was the winter retreat that hurt a lot
- dimensions shown in this map:
- size of army
- multimodal display can yield richer communications and reduce round tripping
"GRAND PRINCIPLES" OF ANALYTICAL DESIGN
- "Show comparisons"
- "Show causality"
- "Show multivariate data"
- "Integrate word, number and image"
- "Document everything and cite sources, scales, error"
- "Presentations stand or fall based on quality, relevance and integrity of content"
- "Adjecent in space is superior to stacked in time"
- "Use small multiples" (or other mechanisms that illustrate whole-evidence summaries)
- "Put everything on a universal grid"
- note that these principles can be inverted to be principles of shrewd consumption
- that's because they're based on fundamental analytical tasks
- principles of design = f(principles of analytical thinking)
QUOTE: "Interest and boredom is not a function of decoration, it's a property of content." PRINCIPLE: Transform your critical thinking tasks into principles of information design
- first question should be "what is the thinking task that my presentation is supposed to help with"
- dictates type of content, information architecture, etc.
- gets us out of the business of "what's cool" and "what's hot"
- claim that these principles are universal and indifferent to the environment
- makes techniques for cartography equivalent to techniques for websites
- evidence: natural laws are causal, multimodal, integrated, etc.
- thus: principles are universal due to neccesity of our natural environment
QUESTION: what about emotional impact of design? how can one design for that? should one?
ex: Gallileo's Discovery of Saturn & Sunspots (Envisioning, p18)
- embedded image right alongside word
- "Saturn looks like this" ... "when it's blurry, it looks like this" ...
- elegant, focus on data, design is transparent
- sunspot data that proved that the sun rotates
GEM: Adjescent Information >> Information Stacked in Time
- information stacked in time ("one damned thing after another" / "computer interface")
- information resolution is powerful for putting more information in a single eyespan
- our visual system is very high resolution & very selective in terms of processing
- computer screens are trivial by comparison, and thus cannot present overload
- bad _design_ creates overload, not amount of information
QUOTE: "The single best thing you can do to get better information on a computer (other than getting a Mac) is to get a great, big, high resolution display."
- people doing serious analytics on computer usually use multiple monitors
- this is why voicemail systems are so annoying
QUESTION: so why is animation better? because the time-delay is short enough that we can keep the previous image in mind?
- sunspot data includes throwaway line "the annual movement of the earth"
QUOTE: "How religious faith got mixed up with astrological data is an idea that, I think, escapes anyone outside of Kansas."
- represents the incredible change in the way our society analysed thought and principles
- previously all thinking was done by philosophers
- winning theories were those that were most eloquent or endorsed by church
- this represents a shift to data/evidence based reasoning
ex: Shiner's Refuting of Sunspots (Envisioning, p19)
- uses small multiples
- once the viewer figures out the format, small multiples can be quickly scanned and compared
- takes advantage of user's investment in decoding the format
- implicit credibility through repetition and exploration/mastery of detail, showing all data
QUOTE: "The single biggest threat to learning the truth from a presentation is evidence selection by the presenter"
- no such thing as objectivity, everyone's an advocate for something, usually their POV
QUOTE: "When a company beats the quarterly expectations by a penny, that's nice. When 20% of all companies do, that's perjury."
- repeated studies are an excellent way to protect against cherry-picking/evidence selection
- initial biotech studies are always the most positive explorations
- subsequent designs exhibit more control, less enthusiasm, more critical review
- more comparative data is avaiable which prevents cherry-picking
ex: John Gotti's "spreadsheet of crime" acquittal chart (Envisioning, p31)
- this is a large multiple
- yet these are "dummy variables"; they don't show multiplicity!
- Cardinale was, in fact, convicted of murder 5 times
- most obnoxious crimes are placed near top or bottom of chart for visual impact
- information is adjescent in space, perhaps in order of testimonies
- accomodates different cognitive styles
- some will follow, some will peek ahead, some will draw their own comparisons
- better than flipcharts/powerpoint since it lets the viewer explore it at their own speed/style
Scaling, Explaining Magnitude (Explanations, p16-24)
- looks better in the "after" image because the perspective is adjusted, resulting in a more intimate view
- good example of how size, magnitude and quantity
- Lichtenstein painting is shown to be large by having an item of known size in view
- severe grids to exploit perspective and motion distract from the actual information
- NASA flyover of Venus featured a vertical exaggeration of 22.5 times normal
- everything should be on a "universal grid" of some fashion
- your data resides somewhere
- provide context of where that is in relation to some universal grid
- compare sunspot graphs (Explanations, p25) for the different scales
- scale exploits that it's easiest to compare slopes that center around 45 degrees
- selected aspect ratio of display that average absolute value of slopes is 1
- eye wants "lumpy" graphics for best chance in learning about slope differences
- sometimes called "banking" or "bringing level to 45"
- the scale is driven by the cognitive task of wanting to compare the slopes
Showing Causality (Explanations, p30)
- John Snow's map of London during the cholera epidemic illustrated causality by adding pumps to locations of deaths
- ended up bringing an end to cholera epidemics in England
- compare, tragically, to the 13 exhibit presentation by NASA engineers that predicted the Challenger explosion in 1988
- their presentation failed to show causal comparison (ironically, so did Feynman's icewater experiment)
- see page 53, Visual Explanations which was the nexus of the "grand principles"
Explaining Magic (Explanations, p55)
- requires 5 dimensions: 3 for space, 1 for time, 1 for reveal/concealed
- based in the design of disinformation
- ex: they say "never tell your audience what you're about to do"
- invert that, and you get a presentation design principle: tell people what the problem is, and how you're trying to solve it
- ex2: "never repeat a trick"
- inverted, this yeilds the conclusion that repetition is a valuable learning aid
- advice learned from magic for presentations is on Explanations p68
Parallelism (Explanations, p82)
- went over many examples of parallel graphics
- fantastic example on page 90-91 of the history of music
- dense information graphics allow the viewer to delve in and explore
QUOTE: "And I'm talking about why this graphic is good and nobody's listening to a damned word that I'm saying because you're all looking at it."
- overdesigned displays have a fantastic amount of decoration and a poverty of information
- cluttered designs are simply designs that failed at achieving parallelism
QUOTE: "Clutter and confusion are not attributes of information they are failures of design."
- to clarify, add detail, don't remove content!
Sparklines (Beautiful Evidence 4pg Advance)
- incredibly dense resolution of information
- completely open source, and implementations exist in the field for several popular applications (including MS Word)
- they provide visual access to massive amounts of information
- better to be approximately right than absolutely wrong
- sparklines are treated like regular typography, and have the resolution of words
- like words, you can scan wholistically, or go bit-by-bit for in depth analysis
- lowercase "a" makes 20-50 visual distinctions (on/off); sparklines use similar "resolution"
QUESTION: things like the "home-game" variant in a sparkline aren't immediately apparent; would require an additional decode step to be published each time?
- tempting to get sparkline featuritis
GUI (Explanations, p146-7)
- frquently violates rule #4 - doesn't let you integrate word, number and image
- initial GUI by Xerox had no concept other than documents and folders
- applications didn't exist; they were just opened when someone opened a document
- three things now exist in GUIs that were never intended to by Xerox:
- concept of an "operating system"
- concept of an "application"
- concept of a "marketing experience"
- too frequently, UI designs mimic the organizational heirarchy
- this happens a lot in annual reports, too
QUOTE: "The only damned metaphor that they can think of is heirarchical."
- menu structures that don't show the downstream options are unfriendly and limit content unneccessarily
- pages with few links are keeping users from the content they're looking for
QUESTION: so, I guess the idea is that promoting 3-5 simple tasks on a webpage is good, but then laundry-list other things in an easy-to-scan fashion? where's the idea of trying to limit complexity by limiting choice?
- what good are icons that need to have words beneath them? at that point, the icon has failed and is chartjunk
- computer systems are loaded with chartjunk
- icons, system controls, low-frequency use buttons, advertising
- the battle for control over the screen is foisted onto the user
- should be based on a calculation of content/totalArea yeilding a number higher than 90%
QUOTE: "Nobody ever comes to a website for a design experience ... the two most embarrasing words in the history of web design are 'Skip Intro'." COMMENT: this all goes back to "good design is invisible", really; not sure how I feel about his advice that home pages should be full of links. Also, his definition of "design experience" seems to be heavily graphical with no content, flash movies, etc.
- every pixel counts in a low-resolution environment (screens are low-res compared to paper!)
Cognitive Style of PowerPoint (essay of same name)
- executive summary suffered from "marketing terminology" such as "conservatism"
- title was "Review of Test Data Indicates Conservatism for Tile Penetration"
- focus was on "Tile", not "RCC" which actually ended up being the problem
- how, as a consumer of the presentation, would you know to ask "how about the RCC?"
PRINCIPLE: be careful of too narrow a domain specification; try to always think about what's relevant to the problem and ensure that your domain is inclusive
- first bullet makes no sense; this is very common and due to the low resolution nature of the medium
- PowerPoint promotes a "writing style somewhere between sentences and grunts"
- heavy reliance on acronyms and grammatical shortcuts
- the act of sentance structure requires analytical thought; PowerPoint works against this
- requires consumers have same cognitive context / shortcuts as authors
- hard to inline graphics, proper mathematical/engineering notation, domain specific notation
- close reading revealed a lack of analysis
- overuse of vaguely qualitative words
- indirect nouns such as "flight condition" vs. "Columbia"
- vague references such as "it" which actually referred to "loss of vehicle and crew"
- inconsistent use of terminology, formatting and style
QUOTE: "The appropriate title for this slide would have been 'Review of Test Data Indicates Irrelevance of Two Models'. That's not disingenuous; that would have meant something in a safety culture."
- PowerPoint forwards an attitude and a cognitive style
QUOTE: "Use the AutoContent wizard to decide what you want to say." -- PowerPoint marketing brochure
- foreshortens evidence and thought
- low resolution
- single path heirarchical presentation of information
- broken narrative structure with minimal fragments
- rapidly spaced thin information rather than focused spatial analysis
- preoccupation with format not content which leads to marketing-like "pitch" effect
- only 1982-era Pravda had thinner information presentation than PowerPoint templates & textbooks
- don't fit the presentation to the software!
Tips for Delivering Presentations
- For before you even get into the meeting / creating the presentation ..:
- Serious presentations stand or fall based on the quality of the content
- Design cannot rescue failed content
- Practise, Practise, Practise your presentation
- Presentation delivery tips:
- Show up early
- Avoid meaningless filler and uptalk
- Start with the 200 word summary (what's the problem? who cares? what's to be done?)
- Use Particular-General-Particular (PGP) structure for explaining information
- Give everyone at least one piece of paper
- Tailor to your audience (copy the WSJ, second most selling newspaper, highest resolution)
- Find good models and follow them (don't get it original, get it right)
- Use humour for quick reinforcement, not as a set piece
- End early
And then he did, by about 2 minutes.