Tufte Seminar: Summary of Reports

Subject: Tufte Seminar: Summary of Reports
From: Kathy Moore <kkm -at- IRIS132 -dot- BIOSYM -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 25 Jan 1995 11:01:58 -0800

Many people asked for information about the Edward Tufte seminars.
Deborah Schwartz (deborah -at- asl -dot- dl -dot- nec -dot- com) collected this
information and sent it to me, and I offered to summarize to the

He's doing seminars in Seattle on 2/16 and 2/17. He does some earlier
that week in Los Angeles. The number for seminar info: 800
822-2454, 9 to 5 EST.

**Original Query to the list from Deborah:

Is anyone familiar with one-day seminar presented by Edward Tufte,
author of _Envisioning Information_ and _The Visual Display of
Quantitative Information_? I am also interested in what readers
of the books think about them.

**Replies to Deborah's message:

From: Elaine Winters <ewinters -at- netcom -dot- com>

The books are superb -- the kind you'll save and
give to your kids. I've been trying to get to the
seminar for about a year - - timing is always out
of sync. If you get there pls post your impressions.

From: "doug montalbano" <doug_montalbano -at- cc -dot- chiron -dot- com>

Deborah, I have taken the course and I have the books. The books
are magnificent, worth the forty bucks per volume EASILY. The
seminar is just a non-reading way of getting some of the same info.
May not be worth it -- it depends on who's paying for the seminar
and how much time you have to do it.

But get the books, certainly. They cover some of the issues
covered on this list. They also lay the groundwork for a really
logical, consistent, and clear way of thinking about and presenting
the visual product we as writers or editors create.

From: "Fred Butzen" <fred -at- lepanto -dot- mwc -dot- com>

I have not seen the seminar, but my uncle did; and he was very impressed.
One interesting point: Tufte eschews slide and overhead projections,
and instead uses hand-outs.

"The Visual Display" is a superb book, the best on its subject that I have
seen. Run, don't walk, to get a copy if you are at all interested in
how to present information on a two-dimensional surface (paper or screen).

I've only glanced at "Envisioning Information", but it too looks wonderful.

From: MONETTE DENISE P 678-3843 MACA <dmonette -at- arl -dot- mil>

I haven't heard of a seminar, but if you find anything out about one,
please let me know about it.

I have read Tufte's books. I think his ideas are great, and the books
are enjoyable.

From: CHERNJC1_at_TEAPOST -at- teomail -dot- jhuapl -dot- edu


I took the seminar less than a year ago. Tufte is a riveting and
entertaining speaker. He spent an hour showing us two antique books--the first
English edition of Euclid's geometry, and the first edition, in Italian, of
Galileo's book reporting sunspots--to demonstrate good and less than effective
ways of presenting information. Tufte's thesis is that visual display should
show both the big picture and the details simultaneously. His paradigm for that
is the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC, for it gives the big picture--a large
slab commemorating those who died--and the details--the names themselves for
those who are interested.
Tufte also goes through a rigorous analysis of the information, in the form
of tables, that was reviewed by Morton Thiokol's engineers a day or two before
the 1986 Challenger disaster (the space shuttle that exploded after launch,
killing the astronauts). He makes a convincing case that had the data been
displayed properly to bring out the important points, the engineers would have
decided against letting the Challenger take off. Tufte also walked us through a
nineteenth century graphic depicting Napoleon's disastrous Russian campaign, and
a bus schedule that he designed. The last hour was spent showing display of
information using video. One video was memorable: an animated graphic of
classical music pieces.
I came away from the seminar with enthusiasm for doing graphics well. I
recommend Tufte as a deeply entertaining speaker.

Jay Cherniak

From: Jonathan Donald <jeddak -at- panix -dot- com>


I haven't seen the presentation, but I've heard mixed reviews from
folks in the tech writing community; some have said it lacks
sufficient content, that its content closely mirrors the book and
that it's somewhat pricey, considering the quality of the visuals he uses.

OTOH, Tufte is supposed to be a good speaker.

Just what I heard...

**End of replies
Kathy Kearney Moore kkm -at- biosym -dot- com
Technical Writer Phone: 619-458-9990
Biosym Technologies Fax: 619-458-0136

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