Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative

Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative

Describes design strategies – the proper arrangement in space and time of images, words, and numbers – for presenting information about motion, process, mechanism, cause, and effect. Examines the logic of depicting quantitative evidence.


  • Hardcover: 156 pages
  • Publisher: Graphics Press (February 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0961392126
  • ISBN-13: 978-0961392123
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 9.2 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
Download Now


  1. As an extension of his observations described in his earlier book, “Envisioning Information”, Tufte’s third installment of the trilogy turns the discussion to the display of dynamic information. Again, Tufte draws from numerous examples throughout history to illustrate his points. The chapter on ‘Visual and Statistical Thinking’ contains some of the most poignant arguments in the book, including an engaging visual narrative of the 1854 Cholera Epidemic and a study on the Challenger space-shuttle tragedy.
    This book may not for everyone, however. It does not contain ready-to-use concepts nor does it present a comprehensive solution for displaying dynamic information. What it does contain, are keen observations and commentary on past attempts at dynamic information display. The relation of each chapter to the next is not readily apparent and is quite precarious in fact. What results, is a book that reads better if each chapter is taken independently. In short, this book will be more rewarding to those willing to spend time to ponder over Tufte’s observations. Conversely, the book will appear to have a lack of focus to those in a rush to find solutions.

  2. VISUAL EXPLANATIONS: IMAGES AND QUANTITIES, EVIDENCE AND NARRATIVE represents one volume within a set of three. In this volume, Edward R. Tufte explores the visual and artistic aspects of the assessment of change, dynamics and most importantly cause and effect. In my mind, Edward R. Tufte is one of the intellectual giants of the 20th century. His work is magnificent! He employs a powerful conceptual framework that has had a profound effect on the reader.
    I own all three volumes. I use VISUAL EXPLANATIONS: IMAGES AND QUANTITIES, EVIDENCE AND NARRATIVE when I teach statistics. Students, but mostly professors, are too caught up with the power of inferential statistics leaving behind or seeing the visual display of data as insignificant or too simple to be introduced in a college course. Even worse, some are just plain ignorant regarding data presentation. To dispel any attitude that inferential statistics are the heart and soul of the study of cause, I use the section about the Challenger space flight to illustrate the importance of graphic illustrations in the field of engineering. The book hits home like no other visual presentation. Students see how decisions are made on the basis of poor quality and high quality graphics. These graphics produce a rare quietness in the classroom. There emerges a respect for the deceased astronauts. Students see how decision-makers employ graphic illustrations to determine a critical (in this case, life-threatening) course of action. The illustrations played an important function in endorsing the liftoff of the doomed Challenger.
    After students emotionally recover from the trauma of visually understanding the flaw in the O-rings, the graphics lead students to understand the statistical concept of “independence.Read more ›

  3. Oh my – Mr. Tufte just carries on producing one fine piece of work after another.
    This third book in the triology on “information presentation” is as splendid as the previous two books. In this volume the emphasis is, as the title suggests, on methods for creating powerful illustrations and graphics that could help you present your knowledge in a non-disputable way.
    The most intriguing section in this book without doubt the chapter on the Challenger disaster in 1986. The rocket engineers back then had worries about the launch on Jan 28. However they were not at all able to communicate their worries to NASA and so it ended… In a worrying few number of pages, Mr. Tufte, dissects the data presented to NASA by the engineers and creates a information redesign which makes it clear to anyone that the launch should have been postponed.
    I still belive that book 2, “Envisioning Information” is the most required. Buy that book and if you love is (as I do), then buy the other two books as well.
    The layout of this book is fully in thread with the others in the series. Beautiful, engaging, ingenious, etc. The print quality is second to none – you really have a feeling that the crew behind these books have been nursing their babies.
    So Mr. Tufte – where is number four in the series?

  4. In this third book by Tufte on graphics, he provides great examples through history where good pictures conveyed important information to decision makers and bad graphics left uncetainty and indecision. A great success story is the identification of the source of the cholera epidemic in London in the 1850s. With regard to the Challenger Space Shuttle, Tufte suggests that one good picture may have convinced the NASA engineers of the need to avoid launching at low temperatures. Great pictures, great examples and great advice are found throughout the book. You may not believe that graphs can be used to answer all scientific questions but Tufte will convince you that they are important and must be done right!

  5. Visual Explanations is not a usual book. It is like a knowledgeable friend walking with you through a museum: pointing out good design and bad ideas; linking various domains (graphic design, usability, psychology) together. You learn things slowly, almost by symbiosis. Visual Explanations will be enchanting for people who have the time to read it in that way. It will be frustrating for people looking for a practical guide: This is not a textbook. The book itself is beautifully produced.

    Topics covered include: clarity and purpose of information, color scheme choice, and composition of images.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *