Ask many UI/UX Designers what some training milestones exist in their field and Edward Tufte will come up often. And as my field becomes more and more about testing and research than designing user interfaces, I reached that training milestone recently.
Above is Charles Joseph Minard's data-map that describes the successive losses in men of the French army during the French invasion of Russia in 1812. Napoleon's Russian campaign started out with approximately 422,000 troops and returned to the Niemen River with about 10,000. As the tan line towards Moscow gets thinner and the black line back gets even thinner, the cost of war is evident indeed. This is early data visualization, but an example Professor Tufte points it out as a spectacular example of using the fundamental examples of analytical design.
Professor Tufte emphasizes the moral/ethical imperative for presenters and readers to focus on consumable designs to maximize the rich and luscious data at available, but still maintain the the complexity of the data without dumbing it down. A tough compromise, but worth the extra effort.
After spending the morning pouring over classic examples of great data visualization he turned his talk towards actually presenting the data in the real world, the working world. Passionate about presenting real data, even when it's complex, he urged the audience (about 450) not to hide the rich beauty of intricate data, but to summarize it for the audience verbally. When questions come up, and they often do, you will have the visual data to go granular.
A few random observations:
- You will get pre-homework upon sign-in, so get there early. Finding the book reference before the presentation helps you keep up throughout the day.
- Edward Tufte is a hard working man, but so was his assistant! That guy was hopping around turning lights on and off, zooming in and out of slides, and adjusting music and volume.
- Get a good night's sleep before the conference - the content is awesome, but the professor presentation voice doesn't vary much in volume or pitch. It's not Ferris Bueller's teacher taking attendance monotone, but it's close. Even if your eating lunch on the company dime, don't fill up - the afternoon doesn't exactly ramp up in energy.
- If you're a walker like me, keep in mind that you'll be carrying 8 extra pounds of books on the way back home. So bring carrying case or backpack. The box has a handle, but swinging that much weights will do a number on your forearms.
- Bring a pack of post it book markers for tagging the book highlights of the conference.