by Edward Tufte
Tufte has written three books on visual information design: the first was about presenting numbers, the second about presenting nouns, and this book is about presenting verbs. The chapter that I found most compelling gives historical examples of information design, good and bad. In the middle of the 19th century, a graph allowed John Snow to correctly infer the cause of a cholera outbreak in London. In 1986, the Challenger exploded shortly after NASA officials debated whether what turned out to be the precise cause of the accident was in fact a problem. They were unconvinced that O-Ring erosion would be a fatal problem at a sub-freezing launch temperature -- this decision was based on poor visual diagrams received from Thiokol engineers. Tufte presents an alternative graph that is much more convincing, that might have prevented this tragedy.
Some of the material from his earlier books is repeated here, but it's well worth repeating. This is a good book and it's beautifully designed. I recommend it, although if one were to read just one Tufte book it should be The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.
copyright © 2000 John Regehr