I love information, but like most people, I process information faster with pictures, graphs, graphics, charts, and meaningful images.
About ten years ago I came across the work of Edward Tufte, an American statistician and professor emeritus of political science, statistics, and computer science at Yale University. He is also an artist (his Feynman diagram sculptures are interesting), and an expert in the presentation of informational graphics (think charts and diagrams). His books Visual Explanations, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (the first of his books I read), Envisioning Information, and Beautiful Evidence bring together science and art in a way that generates what we call visual information.
- show the data
- induce the viewer to think about the substance rather than about methodology, graphic deisgn, the technology of the graphic production or something else
- avoid distorting what the data has to say
- present many numbers in a small space
- make large data sets coherent
- encourage the eye to compare different pieces of data
- reveal the data at several levels of detail, from a broad overview to the fine structure
- serve a reasonably clear purpose: description, exploration, tabulation or decoration
- be closely integrated with the statistical and verbal descriptions of a data set