How To Raise Your Data-Viz Game Without A Design Degree
Good Charts may look like “Edward Tufte for Dummies,” but it might also be the design manual of the year.
John Pavlus 06.30.16 8:00 AM
The best design books, like the best designers, value pragmatism over purity. My Edward Tufte books look great on the coffee table, but Good Charts will be joining Design Is a Job on the bookshelf that I can reach easily from my desk. I expect to consult it that regularly.
Good Charts does what it says on the tin: It tells you how to design diagrams, charts, and infographics that do the job you intended them to do. According to author Scott Berinato, those jobs tend to fall into four categories. There’s “idea illustration” for when you want to succinctly capture a complex concept, argument, or system ; “idea generation” for when you’re scribbling on whiteboards or napkins ; “visual discovery” for when you’re trying to sift signal from noise ; and (my favorite) “everyday dataviz” for when you just need to make a point without fussing over it in Keynote or Illustrator for four hours .
Making good charts is like learning how to write clearly—part language, part craft, all practice.
Berinato is an editor at Harvard Business Review, which probably has a lot to do with why his book treats the practice of infographic design with more bluntness than reverence. Nothing against Tufte, but most people aren’t interested in painting the chart version of the Sistine Chapel. Nor do they particularly care about trading sick burns on Twitter about the inefficacy of pie charts .