Tufte presents a collection of some the best examples of information design ever invented, and some of the worst examples. And then he goes into the underlying principles that make the great ones sing out.
This book will be really helpful to any web page designer, UI designers, statisticians, cartographers, scientists, or anyone concerned with presenting dense information in a clear way.
There is a chapter on presenting multiple dimensional data on a flat, 2D paper that all by itself is worth the price of the book. Then there's the chapter on "Small Multiples" which presents wonderful examples of how to show patterns and changes. But then there's the chapter on layering of information, so the key pieces of data appear first, and the less relevant ones reveal themselves later. And on and on and on. Its just a great book.
To add to it, Tufte is obsessed with quality like nobody else I can think of in the book business. Its printed on 100% rag paper using real lead type because he thinks that all other methods are inferior. Which means the book is costly to make, but its of heirloom quality.
This is not a "how to" book, but rather a group of inspiring examples showing any would be information designer the concepts behind the execution of these superb examples.The concepts are painstakingly argued and illustrated. Tufte is obsessed with quality - the book is printed on 100% rag paper using old fashioned lead type because he believes this yields the highest quality results. One of the best books I have ever read when it comes to visual design!
For instance, in his chapter "Layering and Separation," Tufte dissects the problems with array of marshaling signals then reworks the presentation and provides a step-by-step explanation of his process. His coining of the wonderful notion of an "information prison" shows that his cleverness extends from the visual to the written.
As Tufte writes in his introduction, "The principles of information design are universal-like mathematics-and are not tied to unique features of a particular language or culture." He proves this point amply by drawing on myriad sources and examples.
His comments and insights of the power of color are especially enlightening, and if you have ever been subjected to a particularly hideous PowerPoint slide show where the presenter got more than a bit carried away with the technology, you will be agreeing more than disagreeing with the ideas here.
Finally, I acknowledge there is bound to be some sticker shock associated with Edward Tufte's books. But if you consider the amount and quality of color (which requires special press runs), the quality of the paper, the amount of press time (Tufte oversees and approves the printing), and the vast scope of timeless information contained in each book, then these books are a deal.