3.18 ToDG: Aesthetics and Technique in Graphical Design (1)

  • Discusses different issues: Choice of design (text vs. table); Combining words & numbers; Proportion & Scale (Line weight and lettering), Shape of graphics (2 \(\times\) 1)13
  • Graphical elegance is often found in simplicity of design and complexity of data (Tufte 2001, 2:177)
  • "Attractive displays of statistical information
    • have a properly chosen format and design
    • use words, numbers, and drawing together
    • reflect a balance, a proportion, a sense of relevant scale
    • display an accessible complexity of detail
    • often have a narrative quality, a story to tell about the data
    • are drawn in a professional manner, with the technical details of production done with care
    • avoid content-free decoration, including chartjunk." (Tufte 2001, 2:177)
  • Examples: Tufte (2001) (Table page 179, Figure 180),


Tufte, Edward R. 2001. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Vol. 2. Graphics press Cheshire, CT.

  1. “Visual preferences for rectangular proportions have been studied by psychologists since 1860, but, even given the implausible assumption that such studies are relevant to graphic design, the findings are hardly decisive. A mild preference for proportions near to the Golden Rectangle is found among those taking part in the experiments, but the preferred height/length ratios also vary a great deal” (Tufte 2001, 2:190).