“…the lines are the verbs…”

From the very first day that I began my Masters program in technical communication, I was inundated with Edward Tufte. I’ve had all four of his books listed as required textbooks; I’ve read (well, skimmed) many pieces of information that he’s put out; and, more or less, I’ve been trained to regard him as the Maestro when it comes to visualizing information.

A couple of weeks ago, I was able to attend a one-day workshop with Dr. Tufte.  The price of the course was a tad steep, but it includes copies of all 4 books as well as the possibility of having him sign them as well AND chit-chat for a little bit (forewarning: in MPLS, it paid off to get in line ASAP. Or arrive early, and check out which side of the room he’s walking through and snag an autograph that-away).  I looked up reviews of the workshop, and while many that I found said that the experience was less-than-stellar due to the lack of hard, real-world suggestions for application, I felt that there were SO many applications for real world scenarios. But, my history regarding Tufte has always been more academic, so working out how to apply these types of seemingly principles is pretty much forte.

But maybe he read those reviews, too, because there WERE quite a few explicit examples of how to use his principles in daily work, such as using templates, running Bezos-style meetings, and a general pedagogy for how to create presentations (1. Prepare a serious summary; 2. State the problem; 3. State who cares; and 3. State the solution). Easy, right?

But to capture all of this, here are my top 10 quotes from Edward Tufte’s course in Minneapolis on August 23. Also, for another interesting write-up, Lindsay Watt and I are pretty much on the same page =]

Quote 1

The power of the sentence is that they have agency.

Quote 2

PowerPoint controls information, reducing the rate of information transfer to zero.

Quote 3 (context:  this SARS diagram)

Design principle derived from cognitive function….get to the verb. The lines are the verbs.

Quote 4 (context: Tim Berners-Lee proposal for distributed information system at CERN)

Dr. Spock wrote a book on quite possibly the most complex issues known to man using only two levels of hierarchy. Why do you need eight?

Quote 5

Your job is to make your audience smarter.

Quote 6

Every statistical illustration should be surrounded by lots of words. The secret to a good graphic is good content.

Quote 7

Information is the interface.

Quote 8

It’s better to be approximately right than exactly wrong.

Quote 9

Agencies, bureaus and groups don’t *do* things; people do.

Quote 10

Paper has fantastic resolution, but it’s flat, and the world is not.

Finally, to end on a fun, graceful note, here’s a fabulous example used a couple of times using the Music Animation Machine…enjoy =]


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