Which Edward Tufte book should a scientist read?
July 6, 2007 9:19 PM   Subscribe

My mom's a research scientist; I've convinced her to get an Edward Tufte book (partly because she uses Powerpoint a lot). Which one should she get?
posted by Tlogmer to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Send her to his one-day seminar - she'll get all of them as part of the deal.
posted by slowstarter at 9:25 PM on July 6, 2007


Visual Explanations is the first one I read, and encapsulates most of his major themes in one volume. It's also the one that most oriented to the practical aspects of displaying scientific data -- this is the book with the extended section about the space shuttle Challenger disaster, for example.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:26 PM on July 6, 2007


How about:

The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint?
posted by KokuRyu at 9:28 PM on July 6, 2007


Seconding Visual Explanations -- it's a bit less wonky than the first two, and makes most of the same points.
posted by jjg at 9:46 PM on July 6, 2007


I still think Visual Display of Quantitative Information is the best one, especially for a scientist. It's the most fundamental.
posted by raf at 9:59 PM on July 6, 2007


For a research scientist? Visual Display of Quantitative Information.

Tufte's Cognitive Style of Powerpoint pamphlet more closely addresses your parenthetical goal, but no book is going to help someone make great presentations if they've been satisfied with Powerpoint up until now. They'll just be slightly less satisfied with Powerpoint while making presentations that are marginally better.
posted by Jeff Howard at 11:42 PM on July 6, 2007


Another vote for VDQI, it's the most straightforward. Visual Explanations after that. I have the third one but haven't read it yet.
posted by luriete at 11:51 PM on July 6, 2007


I'm a research scientist (in training) and have read Visual Display of Quantitative Information. It's excellent and gave me a lot to think about for my research. I'm not going to do everything it says, but it gave me different ways to think about my data, always useful for a scientist.

I read it because my Software Engineer boyfriend brought it home, and he found it interesting and useful for his interface design stuff.
posted by shelleycat at 12:50 AM on July 7, 2007


The first one is definitely the most useful for a scientist.

I should also recommend the underrated Visualizing Data by Bill Cleveland.
posted by grouse at 1:41 AM on July 7, 2007


nthing VDQI. Beautiful, beautiful book.
posted by flabdablet at 2:00 AM on July 7, 2007


I read Cognitive Style of Powerpoint last week: it’s a small collection of non-constructive anecdotal criticism. Unless she is so entrenched in Powerpoint that she needs this kind of hit over the head to see the light, I would not recommend it. I also read two of his other books, Visual Explanations and another, these were much better, but I found a lot of conceptual overlap between them, so I don't think it is necessary to read them all, and she will probably get the point from Visual Explanations.
posted by Eringatang at 7:14 AM on July 7, 2007


I would recommend Graph Design for Eye and Mind by Stephen M. Kosslyn.

Unlike Tufte, he tells you how to do things properly, rather than just railing against people doing things improperly. He also brings to bear lots of hard data showing that many of the principles Tufte espouses are simply wrong.
posted by dmd at 8:29 AM on July 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: Well, I think I'll go to the library and look through a few of the tufte books myself -- between Visual Display of Quantitative Information and Visual Explanations, I guess. Thanks, all.
posted by Tlogmer at 9:22 AM on July 7, 2007


Visual Display of Quantitative Information.
posted by wackybrit at 11:38 AM on July 7, 2007


They're all similar, but I've found Visual Display of Quantitative Information the most useful and accessible. Any one would be a good choice really.
posted by bonehead at 2:21 PM on July 7, 2007


By the way, Beautiful Evidence includes The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint as a chapter.
posted by mbrubeck at 5:38 PM on July 7, 2007


Can anyone point out examples of scientists using Tufte's ideas to improve their presentations?
posted by lukemeister at 7:18 AM on July 8, 2007


lukemeister: I conceived the dot-dash-density plots in this paper (self-link) using principles from both Tufte and Cleveland.
posted by grouse at 7:34 AM on July 8, 2007


grouse - Thanks! Unfortunately, "this item requires a subscription to Molecular Biology and Evolution Online."
posted by lukemeister at 7:51 AM on July 8, 2007


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