• April 11, 2016
  • Nathaniel

I want to share some of the books from our library that have helped me develop and maintain an interest in visual explanation.

My story in brief: in 2009, I put the software business I had worked on for twelve years in other hands. I turned my attention to other matters, including my long-standing interest in information graphics and data visualization.

I was eager to try my hand at some projects that had occurred to me over the years that I was in the software world, so I started Timeplots and began to make information graphic products. The first thing we made was a 36”x48” poster called the Visual History of the Supreme Court. It got good reviews, and we started selling it online. We continued to make other posters.

A few years later, we added a service side to our business, calling it Graphicacy. Under that name, we have helped other institutions tell complex stories in visual form. Through this vehicle, we are working at the craft to further the missions of our clients.

I work best when I stoke my interest in a subject by continuing to learn as much as I can about it. In the case of explanatory graphics, there has been an explosion of interest in the field and innovations in every aspect of their construction, presentation, marketing. New languages have been developed, like d3.js for visualizing data interactively.  It has been fun to try to keep up.

An important spark for my interest in the subject had been a statistics course I took in the late 1980s, as a senior in college. Professor Edward Tufte taught the course. He is now known as a guru of information design.  I have also come to recognize some of the books I had read previously, including as a kid, prepared my mind.

Tufte’s four self-published books starting with A Visual Display of Quantitative Information are well-known, lovely and required reading for anyone interested in telling stories with data.

Beyond Tufte, I have picked books that I have found inspiring, whether because they contain great examples, or teach a subject elegantly, or improve my historical understanding of the field.

When you set out to build your own explanatory graphics (or work with a team that helps them you do that). I hope one or more of these titles leads you forward.

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