Tufte: Envisioning Information: "Narratives of Space and Time"

by Carson Reynolds

In the last chapter of Envisioning Information, Tufte focuses on displays that relate space and time in the same two dimensional space. He shows data from Galileo’s logs, and reworkings of it. Ironically, Galileo’s presentation (the first) seems to conform to his design rules the best. After a few diagrams depicting artifacts to recreate the movement of the planets, he shows some vertical plots that show the movement w/r/t time. Almost the same way stripcharts depict biological data, except that the data is plotted on top of itself.

From there, Tufte occupies himself briefly with timetables from rail and flight systems that show the special layout as well as the transition time between nodes. Following that there is a a discussion of the New York to New Haven schedule and it’s poor design. He offers a redesign that tones down the grid and sorts the information more conveniently.

Next bit is devoted to oddities of graphical design that bend graphs or loop them. He shows how displays that can be read circularly do have some merit. He also shows some graphs which are both cyclic and graph out time and space. Most notable: Japanese beetle lifecycles. A set of maps which breal with the traditional North is up convention of maps to show linear distance side by side.

The remainder of the chapter concerns itself with fawning over different dance notations. Tufte lauds these because they combine space and time, as well as integrate text. Tufte sarcastically derides modern dance notation and text that curves without purpose. The book ends with an epilogue that seems to point towards better integration between imagery and text.

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