Free Climbing controlled by traffic lights

Saturday, December 15th, 2007

No rule without an exception. I did find that one through Bill. A climber can use cracks to secure himself. You need a cam of the right size for that. Modern ones are based on eccentric panels and are high-tech.

Placing a cam in a crack

Does the cam fit the crack? Look at the traffic light color. Green holds, yellow should hold while the next size would be better. Red doesn’t hold.

Rangefinder

Climbing is easier than controlling an enterprise.

Good information designers are deaf

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

Dogs hear quite well. Sometimes they read minds. Some designers think: “What boring numbers. It’s nothing to write home about.” Others believe: “If there is nothing to illustrate, what am I a designer for?” Information designers don’t listen to that. They are deaf when it comes to graphical rubbish, fashionable fuss and decoration. In case the numbers are boring they look for better ones. If there are none, boredom is the message. Not everything is a scandal, a mess or noteworthy. Brilliant information design is apparent in the terrific work of Megan Jaegerman.

An example: next time

one-way-deaf-dog-area_600px.jpg

Small things that make a big difference

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

Edward says: Use sparklines. Sparklines are data words. Or word graphics. A number without a history is boring. And can mislead. Even so, newspapers show lots of individual numbers. Deutsche Telekom’s revenues in the last quarter. The latest unemployment rate. Yesterday’s Dow Jones index. There’s room for a sparkline at the side. The size of a word. It shows nothing but the pattern of the values to date. You immediately understand it though. Whether it was higher some time in the past. Whether it’s been going up or down for a while. Whether it’s currently close to the historical high or low.

Here’s the development of the euro exchange rate compared to the US dollar. Since its introduction as book money on 1 January 1999 until today 1.32. Almost 3,000 values.

1. It’s not a sparkline without a number after it.

A sparkline is not simply a small time series. It needs the number after it. A sparkline doesn’t work without the number. If it’s there, we can see whether the previous numbers were totally different, slightly different, or more or less unchanged. We often don’t need to know things more precisely.

Wrong Right
Germany 37.7
France 130.4
Austria 75.1
Switzerland 56.6
Germany 37.7
France 130.4
Austria 75.1
Switzerland 56.6

You can add minimum or maximum to them if you wish. Or the initial value on the left.
You can’t write anything in the sparkline itself. Otherwise it will become larger than a word again.

2. The number belongs on the right.

The sparkline shows the number’s past. The number is the last point in the time series. That’s why the number belongs there. You should put things next to each other if they belong to each other. If a value’s on the left, you think it’s the first point in the journey through time. That’s why a sparkline’s number always belongs on the right.

The example shows how confusing it is if it’s done wrongly.

Wrong Right

Source: www.businessweek.com, retrieved 2006–12–12. Redesign: Me.

3. Scaling a sparkline impacts its meaning.

Careful! Scaling is important. Sparklines are small. Scaling is therefore very, very important. You often have several sparklines to compare. If you use the same scale for all of them, you are comparing the patterns and magnitudes of the series of values as well. That only works with similar values. If you use individual scales, you are merely comparing the patterns of the series of values. You compare the magnitudes using the numbers.

Scaled identically Scaled individually
South 9,786,026
North 2,812,324
East 743,415
West 140,476
South 9,786,026
North 2,812,324
East 743,415
West 140,476

Bars integrated in the table help you compare.

Scaled individually
South 9,786,026
North 2,812,324
East 743,415
West 140,476

4. Bars or lines?

Bars are easier to read. But they take up more space. I use bars for short time series, and lines for long ones. Mostly.

Short series Long series

5. Sparklines supplement figures, but do not replace them.

Sparklines are extremely nice in tables. Normally, tables show values for a point in time. Then you want to know how it was before then. So add sparklines. Sparklines can be used to incorporate the past of all values in nearly every table. But it’s wrong to omit the values altogether.

League table just with values

Wrong! Sparklines instead of values

Right! Sparklines and values

6. Sparklines like colors, but do not depend on them.

Publishers are still slightly afraid of sparklines. Especially of colored ones. Color printing is so expensive. But they don’t have to be in color. Sparklines work perfectly well without any coloring.

Single-colored

Now Min Max
Unemployment (1991–2009, in millions) 3.4 2.6 4.9

Multi-colored

Now Min Max
Unemployment (1991–2009, in millions) 3.4 2.6 4.9

SparkMaker helps you draw sparklines.

Vivi is lost

Saturday, November 18th, 2006

My friend Vivi has disappeared. The New York Times helps to find her. They packed everything they know about Vivi into a single graphic, adhering to my reporting standards. Photo, text, data, graphics – everything is integrated, in order to provide information about places, time, frequency and circumstances. ET would say: Beautiful Evidence!

Vivi_600px

New York Times, Saturday, Nov 18th, 2006, page B2.

Bella Reporting Standards

Saturday, November 11th, 2006

Welcome to my blog. My name is Bella. I am the office dog at Bissantz & Company in Nürnberg, Germany. ET says everybody should use my reporting standards.

Source: Edward R. Tufte, Beautiful Evidence, Cheshire 2006, page 43.
Source: Edward R. Tufte, Beautiful Evidence, Cheshire 2006, page 43.

For instance, you can label things directly, even in photos. There is no need for circumstantial legends. Every legend codes something which later needs to be decoded again. That’s no fun unless you are a secret service agent.

Bella's growth