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Theory of Data Graphics. Part 1 Most of a graphic’s ink should vary in response to data variation (see chapters 4-6). Chapter 4 - Data-Ink Ratio.

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Theory of Data Graphics

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theory of data graphics
Theory of Data Graphics
  • Part 1

Most of a graphic’s ink should vary in response to data variation (see chapters 4-6)

chapter 4 data ink ratio
Chapter 4 - Data-Ink Ratio
  • Data Ink is the ink on a graph that represents data.  Tufte claims that good graphical representations maximize data-ink and erase as much non-data-ink as possible. 
  • Data-Ink Principles:

1. Above all else show data.

2. Maximize the data-ink ratio.

3. Erase non-data-ink.

4. Erase redundant data-ink.

5. Revise and edit

data ink ratio of 1
Data-Ink ratio of 1

Tufte tests these principles on a whole range of examples to come up with a wide range of fresh designs that dramatically improve the legibility of the graphs.  Here is an example with a very high data-ink ratio.  It’s an electroencephalogram – a graph that records the electrical activity from the brain.  This graph would have a data-ink ratio of 1.

ch 5 chartjunk
CH. 5 - Chartjunk
  • Moiré vibration 123
  • Grids 1vs2
  • Ducks (self-promoting graphs that are used to demonstrate the graphic ability of the designer rather than display the data.)
worst chart ever
Worst chart ever?

  “A series of weird three-dimensional displays appearing in the magazine of American Education in the 1970’s delighted the connoisseurs of the graphically preposterous.  Here five colors report, almost by happenstance, only 5 pieces of data (since the division within each adds to 100%).  This may well be the worst graphic ever to find its way into print.”

See page 118.

chapter 6 data ink maximization
Chapter 6 – Data-Ink Maximization
  • See chart redesign pages 127-128
multifunctioning graphical elements
Multifunctioning Graphical Elements
  • “The same ink should often serve more than one graphical purpose” (139)
  • Graphical element may carry data information and also perform a design function
  • Element that locates or plots the data is the data measure
  • , also pg. 144 “road stripes”
multifunctioning graphical elements1
Multifunctioning Graphical Elements

Data-Based Grids

  • Grid reports directly on the data
  • Sometimes it’s better to make the coordinate labels into the actual data points themselves. (this strategy eliminates the need to perform eye-work)
  • example
  • Generally works better for smaller data sets
multifunctioning graphical elements2
Multifunctioning Graphical Elements

Puzzles and Hierarchy in Graphics

  • Complexity of the elements can sometimes turn the graphic into a visual puzzle
  • How to recognize: Graphic must be interpreted through verbal rather than visual process
  • See page 153