Giant trilingual compilation tome of graphics by various international artists.
5.0 kilograms, ★★★★
I’m a visual learner and a huge fan of data visualisation. I’m not very good at visualising data by myself (my own efforts are posted here), but I do appreciate the beauty and apparent simplicity of other people’s finished results. The surge in data visualisations we’ve seen in recent years is owed to two things: an overwhelming amount of data made available by the internet; and vast amounts of computing power available to analyse this data in great depth. We can now analyse entire genomes, millions of ‘tweets’, or entire books and their full revision histories relatively quickly to make meaningful conclusions.
All data visualisations can be judged by their beauty, utility and complexity. Very few of the examples in this book hit all three of those targets. The cover image, for example, is beautiful and complicated but useless. The “Earth history” timeline on page 257 is beautiful and useful but too simple. The “So You Need a Typeface” graphic (below) is useful and complex, but its scrambled layout makes it look bland and difficult to read.
That said, this is an art book, and I’m not supposed to ‘like’ everything in it. Considering that art’s purpose is to make people think, then this book succeeds spectacularly. It’s multi-lingual (written in English, French, German, Russian and others—and no particular language dominates the book), so I’m left guessing most of its content. I wasn’t even sure how to read this book: the book itself is too large to open up on my desk, doesn’t fit in my bag, doesn’t fit in one hand, is too cumbersome to take outside and would be exhausting to read in bed. Closed, it’s the size of a pillow! Its intended audience probably reads it on giant artists’ drawing tables—I had to read it on the floor.
I didn’t learn much content from this book. There’s no story, no chapters or sections and the whole book lacks organisation. Many of the fonts are illegibly small, and most of the captions are uninformative (or in foreign languages), which implies that I’m actually not supposed to learn anything—just appreciate the pretty aesthetics.
What I did learn, however, was that I had a particular taste in data visualisations—I like them useful, beautiful and complicated. Thankfully, this book’s massive size meant that there were still dozens of graphics (in 500 pages) that I actually really liked. Recommended for fans of graphic design. ★★★★
- What is Data Visualisation? (cliverobertson.wordpress.com)
- TID1162 – Briefing: Data Visualisation 28/11/13 (danielstansfield.wordpress.com)
- Professional practise, Data visualisation brief. (sophiarimmer.wordpress.com)
- Rediscovering Fritz Kahn: The pioneer of infographics and his commonsense … (mirror.co.uk)
- 10 Reasons Why We Visualise Data (ritholtz.com)
- Information is Beautiful Awards winners 2013 (creativereview.co.uk)
- Data visualisation helped solve 19th century cholera spread (sott.net)
- Streetgraphic Research- Data Visualisation (niallgreen.wordpress.com)
- Release of census information welcomed (national.org.nz)