I Can See Clearly Now . . .

January 24, 2007

Posted by Jay Livingston

As someone with the visual intelligence of ketchup (as Dave Barry might put it), I have great admiration and envy for people who can think in pictures – graphic designers, architects, basically anybody who can draw at a level above stick figures.

In the social sciences it’s especially useful to be able to put ideas and data in visual form. In that arena, Edward Tufte is The Man, and his 1983 book, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, is probably the seminal work in the field. I can't remember who turned me on to it, but when I started leafing through it, I was amazed.

Tufte now has a sort of blog with an “Ask ET” forum, which has, among other things a link to a flash version of Genealogy of Pop/Rock Music: The Classic Graphic by Reebee Garofalo. It ends about 1980, but you still might want to check it out to see if Garofalo's view of, say, Meatloaf's ancestors agrees with your own.

My latest find is this periodic table (pictured below) which groups the different visualizations into families. The original site (though not the copy on this page) has a flash function so that when you drag your pointer over an “element,” it pops up an example of that type of visualization. Check it out.

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