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The Functional Art: An introduction to information graphics and visualization (Voices That Matter) Paperback – 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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The interviews in the last part gives a wider perspective across leading newsrooms and into the digital realm.
DVD makes for a lecture in your home. Alberto is engaging, and it serves a good second take on the material.
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.