“The Elements of Style” applied to analytic design

As a student, I imbibed many of the lessons in William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White’s The Elements of Style  and tried to get them to flow out with the ink of my pen or printer. The book concentrated guidelines on grammar and writing style into its few pages advising to omit needless words or warning of commonly misused words or expressions.

Edward R. Tufte’s The Visual Display of Quantitative Information   has been likened to The Elements of Style.  Tufte notes that we spend years educating students how to write and that newspaper articles, for example, are written at a relatively rather high level, whereas students get scant training on how to present graphical data. And the quality of graphical presentations and the common understanding of them reflect that lack of investment. Tufte, who has self-published for decades, produced several other similar, somewhat redundant, books on analytical design. While these do not deal primarily with web design, and while there are important differences between design for the web and design for other media, much of what Tufte writes does apply to the web. Tufte’s readers will learn why he dislikes pie charts and three-dimensional pie charts even more. They can also view his re-designs of some basic chart types while learning his philosophy on graphical design.

Strunk and White advise to omit needless words; Tufte advises to omit needless non-data ink. There is more to Strunk and White and to Tufte than that, but that’s not too bad of a start.

One thought on ““The Elements of Style” applied to analytic design

  1. Pingback: Reducing non-data ink to improve graphical display | wpossidento

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