Course: Edward Tufte, Presenting Data and Information

Karin from work and I attended a one-day course, Presenting Data and Information, by Edward Tufte at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

I had read some of his stuff a year or two earlier, tried to go to the Chicago course, and our crack clerical staff missed the deadline and it was full. So here we go! Long walk from Metra station to E Wacker Drive. But nice. Good weather. Nice walk.

Showed up, found our way thru the rabbit warren, and registered. We were issued a heavy cardboard box of 4 of ET’s books, and a homework assignment for reading before the class started. I grabbed a Starbucks from the lobby, and off we went.

Big room, lots of people, and not a lot of personal space — typical seminar. We plopped down and read. ET held “office hours” for autograph seekers and questions before, at lunchtime, and afterwards. When does the guy go potty?

The course itself was interesting. The guy is a great speaker, engaging and interesting. The time flew by. He showed 16th century books as examples of books and graphics as timeless art. Neat.

We did the fast 15-minute lunch at Houlihan’s next door. In and out quick, I had a nice chicken wrap, but by the time you walk there, eat, and return it was time to get going again. And the Starbuck’s went away in the PM.

Most of the items listed on the list of items to be covered were indeed covered. The final items were design of information displays in public spaces and design of computer interfaces and manuals. These were the items we were interested in. We got some of the kiosk discussion, but I don’t think we got much of the design of interfaces and manuals. NOTE: I found a review of Visual Explanations with references to Web development, but upon review, it is good stuff, but not a cookbook, more a philosophy.

Tufte manages to get everything important about Web design onto pages 146 through 149 of this book: let the information become the interface, use text rather than icons, don’t let the Web site mimic the bureaucratic structure of the publisher. The most remarkable thing is that he wasn’t even writing about the Web!

On the way home, got some combo cheese-and-caramel corn from the Garrett’s popcorn kiosk in the Metra station. Made a nice snack for us later.

Summary: Good course. Neat to see the 16th century books. If you read and have the books, probably a waste of time and money. If you don’t do technical presentations with lots of tables trying to prove things, (like us) perhaps limited use. But hearing “KISS” once more can be a good thing. And bashing PowerPoint is always fun.

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