- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: New Riders; 1 edition (22 August 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0321834739
- ISBN-13: 978-0321834737
- Product Dimensions: 17.5 x 2 x 22.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,47,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Functional Art: An introduction to information graphics and visualization (Voices That Matter) Paperback – Import, 22 Aug 2012
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“Welcome to Alberto’s world. Cairo has done it all in The Functional Art: theory, practice, examples. And he’s done it brilliantly. It is the most comprehensive and sensible book yet on real-world information graphics; we won’t need another one for a long time.” – Nigel Holmes, former graphics director for Time magazine and founder of Explanation Graphics
“If graphic designer Nigel Holmes and data visualizer Edward Tufte had a child, his name would be Alberto Cairo. In The Functional Art, accomplished graphics journalist Cairo injects the chaotic world of infographics with a mature, thoughtful, and scientifically grounded perspective that it sorely needs. With extraordinary grace and clarity, Cairo seamlessly unites infographic form and function in a design philosophy that should endure for generations.”
– Stephen Few, author of Show Me the Numbers
“This book is long overdue. Whether you’re just getting started visualizing information or have been doing it all your life, whether you're looking for a basic understanding of visualization or a detailed how-to reference, this is the book you’re looking for. Alberto Cairo, a professional journalist, information designer, and artist, shows how to visualize anything in a simple, straightforward, and intelligent way.”
– Karl Gude, former infographics director at Newsweek and Graphics Editor in Residence at the School of Journalism, Michigan State University
“The Functional Art is brilliant, didactic, and entertaining. I own dozens of books on visual information, but Cairo’s is already on the shortlist of five that I recommend–along with those by Edward Tufte, Nigel Holmes, and Richard Saul Wurman–to anybody who wishes to have a career in information graphics. Cairo is one of those rare professionals who has been able to combine real-world experience with the academia.”
– Mario Tascón, director of Spanish consulting firm Prodigioso Volcán
"Read It. There is really nothing else to say. If you care about how visualization is used to communicate to people, this is the book for you. If you’re a journalist, you need to read it. If you’re an academic doing visualization research, you really, really need to read it. This is the stuff we’ve been missing in visualization for the last 25 years."
-Robert Kosara, EagerEyes
"If you’re interested to find the right balance between aesthetics and function in the context of data visualization, you cannot avoid Alberto Cairo’s The Functional Art, probably the best data visualization book published in 2012."
-Jorge Camões, www.excelcharts.com
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
But the ideas are incomplete. For instance, the author goes to great pains in chapter 3 to construct a "visualization wheel" - an analytical framework for categorizing your infographic. More functional or decorative? More literal or abstract? Etc. I was getting excited! But the author just kinds of leaves it at that. It's rarely referenced again in the book and turns out not to be a very useful planning tool at all. So why did we spend an entire chapter on this?
Similarly, chapters 5-7 go deep into understanding how vision works: eye saccades, the blind spot, guessing what the picture is without full information, etc. Interesting stuff, but again, it doesn't lead to any great insights. Nothing that couldn't have been expressed without the optometry lesson.
Still, there are some useful ideas in here. Gestalt principles are important. The quick review of Bill Cleveland's research on more accurate graphing techniques. When to use detailed versus abstract imagery. All good ideas.
But there just weren't enough of them. And too many chapters that went deep into some topic but didn't bring back any good insights.
So, 3 stars for some good ideas. But this book should have been a lot better.
There's a fair amount of brain science in this book -- just the right amount, in my opinion, for anyone wanting to visually explore and express information and ideas. But Cairo follows the brain science with excellent practical knowledge and wisdom from the discipline of information design. With plenty of examples, case studies and interviews with expert practitioners, he manages to cover quite a lot of ground, from newspapers to magazines to academia and more. He also tackles the emerging and important area of interactive explanation, covering topics like how we perceive motion, the role of feedback and more.
Full-color illustrations throughout are to be expected in a book of this kind, and there is an ample supply of them. But in addition, the book comes with a DVD-based video course.
All in all this is an excellent overview of a topic that will only become more relevant and important in the coming years.
What I didn't fully appreciate was how much visual journalism (journalism in which the story takes a graphical form) parallels some aspects of a data scientist role. It wasn't until I picked up `Functional Art' by Alberto Cairo that I understood that visual journalists faced similar challenges in identifying the overarching story, organizing the structure, and designing visual communications to a general audience.
The book explores the theory and process of visual journalism based on Cairo's experiences working at Spanish newspaper El Mundo and teaching at the School of Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Three of my favorite ideas/sections:
1. The `Visualization Wheel', a model of Cairo's that serves as a reference point when developing a visualization. There are two main halves to the wheel - the top part representing increased complexity and depth and the bottom part representing simplicity and lightness. The key takeaway is to provide balance to a visualization with the audience in mind. Certain audiences are likely to gravitate towards one than the other.
2. Discussion of engineers versus designers in their approach to graphical forms. On one extreme is Edward Tufte, who espouses a minimalistic approach to visualization. On the other extreme is graphic designer Nigel Holmes, who takes a more emotional, mimetic approach to graphic design. Cairo argues that there are benefits to both approaches.
3. A concise explanation of how the visual brain works. There are more detailed works on the matter (see Colin Ware) but this is one of the clearest explanations I've seen so far.
Overall, a great addition to the data visualization world. It serves as a great primer on visual communication for any budding data scientist.