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Everytime you make a PowerPoint, Edward Tufte Kills a Kitten

. Rod Rakic

(illustration courtesy of Mark Goetz)

I'll admit that until recently, I was aware of Edward Tufte's work, but only after having experienced Tufte, did I start to internalize what the man has to say...

Experience is the right word, because like much of the UX team here at Sears, I got the opportunity to attend of Professor Tufte's one day seminar on information design.

If there's one thing Professor Tufte is known for, is his hatred for how people use PowerPoint. He's gone as far as to say, "Powerpoint was a co-conspirator in the downing of the Columbia." He makes a compelling case how even engineers loose a few IQ points when faced with slides.

Tufte sees PowerPoint for what it is, a tool that can be used for good, or for evil.

I've found myself a student of Presentation Zen, and how Steve Jobs uses slides. That's because I believe most folks quickly blow past the point of diminishing returns, as they turn slides in to eye charts.

But Tufte goes the other way, extolling folks with point to make, to first start by creating a information dense "supergraphic," give them a handout, and let them freelance through the information before you have a conversation about the data that you've presented.

  • Paper has 10 the resolution of a computer screen

  • Each optic nerve (and most of us have two) has bandwidth of 10 megabyte Ethernet

  • HD video has a throughput of approximately 1 gigabit per minute

  • People are much better at scanning than drilling down

Which brings us to Tufte's pointed question, why are we all spending so much time staring at profoundly retarded charts?

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At 3/15/2010 04:28:00 PM, Blogger Snoopy said...

OK, so what does the kitten have to do with it?


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