3.19 ToDG: Aesthetics and Technique in Graphical Design (2)

  • Below Tufte (2001, 2:183)’s criteria for a friendly data graphic, i.e., recommendations to make complex things accessible (accessible complexity):
Friendly Unfriendly
words are spelled out, mysterious and elaborate encoding avoided abbreviations abound, requiring the viewer to sort through text to decode abbreviations
words run from left to right, the usual direction for reading occidental languages words run vertically, particularly along the Y-axis; words run in several different directions
little messages help explain data graphic is cryptic, requires repeated references to scattered text
elaborately encoded shadings, cross-hatching, and colors are avoided; instead, labels are placed on the graphic itself; no legend is required obscure codings require going back and forth between legend and graphic
graphic attracts viewer, provokes curiosity graphic is repellent, filled with chartjunk
colors, if used, are chosen so that the color-deficient and color-blind (5 to 10 percent of viewers) can make sense of the graphic (blue can be distinguished from other colors by most color-deficient people) design insensitive to color-deficient viewers; red and green used for essential contrasts
type is clear, precise, modest; lettering may be done by hand type is clotted, overbearing
type is upper-and-lower case, with serifs type is all capitals, sans serif


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