Show Me The Numbers: Designing Tables And Graphs To Enlighten (Anglais) Relié – 1 août 2004
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The book is gently paced. It's for people who need to present numbers, but may not be wholly comfortable with numbers. It takes the reader by the hand, and walks through a series of very basic steps in reasoning about how a chart communicates, or fails to.
The book is very much oriented towards the chart and graph types that Excel can produce. Like it or not, that makes sense. Excel is what most readers have most acess to, and is what causes some of the ugliest problems. This book addresses those problems.
Few illustrates his points with a number of examples, both good and bad ones. He presents problems to solve, and presents answers to many of them. It's a textbook, and a good one. Its main message is, "Less is better."
This is for anyone who presents information, and for anyone who creates presentation software. I recommend this one.
The recommendation that Few makes in his book are worth buying it and you can read this book in a day, just skip the long explanations. Its indeed long and a somewhat simple, leaving the impression that the content is rather thin, but if anyone presenting data would stick to these simple rules, presentations would make a major step forward in clarity.
- if you are a scientist, go for Cleveland.
- If have been a scientist and became a "manager" buy Few.
- If you are active in politics or other domains that communicate to the large public, Tufte will tell you how to tell the truth :-)
One more thing: pie charts are there to stay, no matter how hard we fight them and how many authors hate them and break them down with good arguments. One cannot turn back the clock, there is something like fashion in the way we present data.
The thrust of the book is communicating. The author lays a solid foundation early in the book by covering qualtitative relationships, summarization and various data types. He then builds upon the foundation with succinct discussions and advice on selecting tablular formats and the correct charts to convey the information.
While Excel is the principal tool used to illustrate the concepts and techniques in the book, I have applied the author's advice to Visio and PowerPoint, as well as a few more obscure charting and graphics programs.
I like the clarity with which the information is presented, and the practical examples given throughout the book. More importantly, this book isn't a tome that is aimed at graphic designers, making it an ideal resource for technical and business professionals who do not fully grasp the nuances of graphic presentation.
If you present data and information - using any application - I strongly recommend this book because it will make your presentations meaningful and easy-to-understand, and will show you how to avoid a plethora of common mistakes like using the wrong chart or impossible to understand tables.
It seems aimed at college underclassmen rather than business professionals. Few spends page after page discussing the most basic mathematical concepts and things that you simply don't need to know in order to create a graph. For example, there is an entire chapter on basic statistics such as how to calculate a mean, median and mode. There is also a lengthy discussion of how the human eye works.
As I went through the book I found myself thinking: "Wow, Few has so little to say about tables and graphs that he needs all of this filler material to make this seem like a real book!"
There are some valuable chapters at the end of the book, but it takes a lot of patience to get there.
The page format is also really annoying and too textbook-like. It is a really wide book with citations (90% of which seemed to be from Tufte) in the wide margins.
I give this review one star for the 15 or so pages worth of good advice it contains. Unfortunately that wasn't enough content to warrant an entire textbook If you're a business professional looking for something you can use, this book is VASTLY overpriced and oversized.
My final comment is on the cover: An eye. A Brain. A sun. Bars coming out of each. It says very little to me, and that seemed to be the theme of the book. I wish I'd have seen a real review on this book before I shelled out $30.
Contrary to Joey Canuck's claim, this book has nothing to do with Excel, other than instructions that appear in an appendix for using Excel to create a particular graph. The principles and practices taught in this book are software agnostic. Regarding consistency with the principles taught by Edward Tufte, I found this book to be quite true to them, and a fitting application and extension of Tufte's principles to the data presentation needs faced every day in the business world. Canuck's complaint that the first grid line does not appear in a graph until page 207 suggests that he is not very familiar with Tufte's teachings, which would deem grid lines in most business graphs as "chartjunk." Actually, the first graph with grid lines appears on page 4, but as an example of the poor design that is common in business today.
A big part of my work involves the creation of reports, consisting largely of tables and graphs. I must often fight for the need to keep the presentation of data simple and clear. "Show Me the Numbers" provides me with the support I need to do this effectively and compellingly.