Andrew won a ticket to see Edward Tufte from this very blog. As a way of saying thank you he's written a review. In the interests of balance I thought you might like it.
This is not a map
This is what was waiting for you, balanced uneasily on your seat, as you arrived for Edward Tufte’s talk at the Royal Geographical Society. Respectfully re-produced, on a smooth 220gsm uncoated stock, it’s a graph showing the fate of the 420,000 French soldiers as Napoleon led them in a suicidal march on Moscow in the freezing winter of 1812. It’s a nice giveaway, and there’s a free elastic band, too.
Tufte doesn’t come to the UK very often. He’s been busy advising Barack Obama that his website design should be invisible, and “91% of every single screen should be content, and navigation is not content”. “Graphics should not be a special occasion”, he emphasised, after a faltering opening, because “Content doesn’t care what it is”.
He doesn’t seem to like designers very much; they worry about process too much at the expense of content. His ideal website design was a “well considered news site”, as practised by the New York Times. Tufte thinks touch screen technology will change our relationship with data, as it will give us back the “physicality of a gesture”.
His view of powerpoint (“It sucks”) seemed too easy, but his comment, “In only two industries do they regard their customers as users...” hung in the air, accusingly.
Tufte has been active in this area before 'infographics' became a common noun, and gaps in newspapers were filled with bar charts for figures that don’t need explaining, so when he says, “This is not a map”, and holds the piece of paper aloft, the room goes quiet; the elastic bands stop twanging.