Envisioning Information
Edward R. Tufte
Publication Date
May 1990
Graphics Press
The second book in Edward Tufte's classic series on information design, Envisioning Information focuses on the craft of information visualization. He refines the principles and examples introduced in The Visual Display of Quantitative Information and that he returns to throughout the series.

For service designers this book offers perhaps the most relevant examples but all four volumes in the series contain valuable insights. If you can only afford one, then this book or Visual Display can offer a solid foundation.

One of Tufte's central points is that visual complexity is not caused by overly-complex information but by a failure of design. He frames this as a moral problem in its impact on society.

Envisioning Information is built on a collection of themes. Tufte selects information design principles such as "Small Multiples" or "Layering" and then proceeds to illustrate them by means of examples, both good and bad. He distills guidelines from these examples and often presents redesigns showing how to improve visual communication through attention to line weight, color and typography.

Information visualization is central to service design. Not only in the design of touchpoints, but also for communicating with clients and other stakeholders. This book helps to establish visual standards for communicating with integrity and grace.

But more importantly it helps to establish how to think like a designer. How to care about the things designers should care about. Sensitivity to the visual aspects of presentation. Clarity of message. The importance of craft. I'm not sure that any book can make you care about those things if you don't already care about them but for professional designers the book serves as an inspiration.

Envisioning Information is beautifully printed on luscious paper with subtle color and refined typography with the occasional tip-in to communicate three dimensional examples. The book has received 14 awards for content and design, including "Best Graphic Design of the Year" from International Design.

It's absolutely a treat to browse through these pages — something that every designer should do at least once a year.

Envisioning Information Filed under: tufte, information, visualization, craft, information design.
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Two Comments
Jeff Howard on May 22, 2010 11:26pm
Uploaded by Jeff HowardTufte's redesign of a simple pocket time-table for the New Haven train is a good example of the type of visual refinement he advocates for information design.
Nick Marsh on June 22, 2010 7:03am
Tufte is a design superhero.
Envisioning Information By Edward R. Tufte
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  1. Escaping Flatland
  2. Micro/Macro Readings
  3. Layering and Separating
  4. Small Multiples
  5. Color and Information
  6. Narratives of Space and Time
  7. Epilogue