Envisioning Information

Envisioning Information is the second book in a three-volume series by Edward Tufte. This book takes a look at ideas, concepts, and the world’s multidimensional properties, and how to transfer it all to a two-dimensional illustrative piece of art.

The book itself is a gorgeous, hardcover-bound work of art in itself. Minute details have been carefully attended to, from the quality of the paper to the little fold-up reproduction of a solid pyramid from Euclid’s Elements from 1570. The book is full of beautiful examples of illustrations, and the accompanying narrative is helpful in identifying what the interesting features are of each picture.

I work near the SFMoMA here in San Francisco, and I often go to the museum at lunch to check things out. Admission is free, since the founder of my place of employment was so generous as to make a very large donation to the museum – I just wave my company ID badge and I’m in. Very convenient for a designer-type like m’self to have such access. Many of the artists cited in this book such as Lichtenstein, Haring, Mondrian, and Klee have works represented in the SFMoMA, so it was nice to first read what Tufte had to say about them and then go and look at comparative works firsthand. For some reason, I thought that Miró was mentioned in the book too, but now that I look I can’t find it. Regardless, there are some beautiful examples of Miró there at the SFMoMA that relate directly to Tufte’s discussion of color, lines, and space.

The only funky thing about this volume is that now and then the writing style seems a bit, well, scattered. I don’t know exactly how to describe it, but it has been bugging me since I read his first book. Sometimes it’s the way ideas seem to run together a bit abruptly, and sometimes it’s his choice of words. Not a really big deal, just a minor thing that probably has no validity anyway. This weblog is no better, so I’ll just shut up now.

The book is nevertheless an excellent resource and well worth reading for any person involved with art, graphic design, or simply greating charts for your company presentation. Check it out.