Monday, January 21, 2008

Elegant Graphics

In his book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Edward Tufte offers this graphic by Charles Minard of the depletion of Napoleon’s troops during his disastrous march to Moscow in 1812 as an example of the principle that “graphic excellence is that which gives to the viewer the greatest number of ideas in the shortest time with the least ink in the smallest space.”

Among other things, Tufte’s books have presented an ardent case against the mind-numbing way that people use PowerPoint to communicate information in business and education. Link.

Tomorrow: Virtual Reality, 1979


sylvia said...

Hi James

thanks for this interesting point of is also my way to think as trainee Both in
-) Applied maths ( stattistics and probabilities and linear algebra etc)
- ) classical drawings...
with such point of views, i wrote " contmprary lecture of leonardo da VINCI 's mathematical thinking.....
but alas in FRANCE impossible to publish it.....But i've been sending it to eidtors and it aight be that i see once " my writings - in french- " signed by another name as this happened to to My favourite Art Historian sig. Federico ZERI....
I one has a solution for me....

thanks again,
best wishes

Unknown said...

Wow! Your mind has a pretty far reach. This is really interesting, I love it when common sense intrudes on peoples love of things like power point. Thanks a million for the water colour preservation advice, that's really smart. It's an especially useful for paints I only use on rare occasions.

Anonymous said...

Except for the handwriting, this graphic is anything but elegant.

James Gurney said...

Well, yes, it describes a horrific event. I meant elegant only in the sense of a compact expression of a complex reality.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating entry~!

I had thought moonlight would be more blue green (or rather how we percieve the environment shown) for the same reasons why blue is the last colour to fade out underwater. I don't know if you're aware of this (though undoubtably you are) but underwater colours fade out in the order of red > orange > yellow > green > blue, with basically no warm colours past a depth of about 10 metres and green fading out and then finally blue (or something approaching that, marine science classes in highschool are several years faded).

Blue and green are easier to see for some reason, hence one contributing factors to red cars beign in more accidents as the brain doen't register their red colour as easily.

And at ore refineries etc, the lights that indicate emergency showers to wash acid out of eyes are green because if your eyes are damaged it is a much easier colour to see.

So possibly I thought night seems seem more that way because it is the only real colour range our eyes can still pick up to any degree.

I know from lectures at uni how difficult it is to find your car under yellow street lights which completely impair your ability to identify colours but that's on an unrelated note.