The Washington Monthly profiles Edward Tufte. Highlights:
In the public realm, data has never been more ubiquitous—or more valuable to those who know how to use it. “If you display information the right way, anybody can be an analyst,” Tufte once told me. “Anybody can be an investigator.”
“[T]he first grand principle of analytical design”: above all else, always show comparisons.
“There is no such thing as information overload,” Tufte says at the start of his courses. “Only bad design.”
Tufte has shifted how designers approach the job of turning information into understanding. “It’s not about making the complex simple,” Grefe told me. “It’s about making the complex clear.”
[A]cquainting Tufte with the slow, procedural pace of bureaucracy has been the greatest challenge, [Earl] Devaney [head of the Recovery Act Accountability and Transparency Board, the body created by the Obama administration to keep track of the $780 billion in federal stimulus money that has spread out across the country] told me. “Tufte drives race cars,” Devaney said, “and most people in Washington drive tanks.”
Hernando de Soto on the destruction of economic facts:
The rule of law is much more than a dull body of norms: It is a huge, thriving information and management system that filters and processes local data until it is transformed into facts organized in a way that allows us to infer if they hang together and make sense.
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