Saturday, November 21, 2009

Edward Tufte

I knew Edward Tufte the way you know your FedEx delivery person. Back in the days that he was making his mark as a statistician and I was worried about typographic fine points, he ferried the Yale political science department’s brochure in its various stages of production back and forth between New Haven and the town where we both lived. We’d meet at the door for pickups and deliveries.

Tufte subsequently gained fame for graphic design—more specifically, as the title of his landmark book described it, “the visual display of quantitative information.” He wrote, designed, and self-published four books on the subject that sold 1.7 million copies. And then he expanded into three dimensions and became a sculptor.

Our paths have essentially gone in opposite directions since those days back in Cheshire, CT, and mine of course pales by comparison. But what’s fascinating is that today we have many similar intellectual concerns. So perhaps Heraclitus wasn’t so misguided with his claim that the path up and the path down are one and the same.

All this is a long, meandering way of giving you a couple of links to the “Ask E.T.” section of his website that I think you’ll find well worth your while to pursue.

First, Grand truths about human behavior.

Second, Metaphors, analogies, thought mappings.

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