Information Visualization

This semester, I will be teaching my information visualization course for fourth time. It has been two years since I taught the course, and in that time, three noteworthy books have been published on the subject.

Manuel Lima’s Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information is an absolutely gorgeous collection of network visualizations. I have yet to read the book, but from flipping through it, I could see that the first three chapters and the last two contain the majority of the written content. The juicy middle two chapters are a gallery of beautiful and complex visualizations with very short descriptions. Consider the book to be visualization porn; if you are into data visualizations, this book will definitely turn you on.

Then there is Beautiful Visualization: Looking at Data Through the Eyes of Experts, a collection of essays edited by Julie Steele and Noah Iliinsky. I’ve read the first chapter of this one, so I can’t give it a review yet, but with contributors ranging from artists and designers to scientists and statisticians, I expect it to be well worth reading. There is less eye candy, and they are generally smaller, than in Lima’s book, but most spreads have supporting examples.

Visualize This: The FlowingData Guide to Design, Visualization, and Statistics by Nathan Yau is the book I’ve decided to use this semester as a companion to The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte. Yau’s book is not one to pick up for pretty pictures. It is a practical guide, giving the reader an overview of where to find data, how to acquire it, how to transform it into a useful format, and how to render it using a variety of technologies and tools available to anyone with a computer and an internet connection. This is exactly the type of instruction that I’ve known was missing from my course, and I’m anxious to work it into my assignments.

I’m looking forward to sharing my students’ work with you. Stay tuned.

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