Information Design Gems

Posted: December 16th, 2008 | Author: Manuel Lima | Filed under: Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

Graphis Diagrams

Graphis Diagrams, published by The Graphis Press in November 1976, is a precious book for anyone interested in Information Design/Visualization. I first saw this book in the school library, while working on my MFA thesis at Parsons School of Design. The first time I opened it, I was mesmerized by the color, layout and originality of some of the works shown on the book, which surveys a vast array of Information Design projects from the 1960/70’s. I tried to look for the book online, just to quickly realize it had run out of print a while back. Some second hand specimens could still be found, but certainly out of reach for a small budget student like me. So it took a bit more than a solid year of post-college work and a move to London to convince myself on purchasing this gem. And the hunger didn’t go away there.

Semiology of Graphics

In the end of 2007 I gave in to my most expensive book purchase ever - but certainly worth every penny. Semiology of Graphics by Jacques Bertin (Sémiologie Graphique in its original French title) is one of the great classic, yet not so distant, books on Information Design. First published in 1967, this outstanding work provides a comprehensive framework for the analysis and representation of data on paper and it’s one of the most important theoretical landmarks for the field. Mine is a second hand version of the English translation published by the University of Wisconsin Press in January 1984. You can still find a few copies in specialized book dealers, online auctions and even Amazon third-parties.

William Playfair Atlas

The third Information Design gem I recently bought was at a much affordable price, in part due to the great work of Cambridge University Press, which merged arguably the two most significant works of William Playfair, The Commercial and Political Atlas and the Statistical Breviary in one unique and accessible volume. The book is an exact duplication of the original work (from 1786 and 1801 respectively) including many of Playfair’s hand colored charts in full color. It also includes an extensive biography of William Playfair as well as annotations to help place the text into perspective. Anyone working on Statistics or Information Design has an immense debt to the work of William Playfair, who invented some of the most common types of diagrams, some of them still used compulsory nowadays. We owe him the line graph, bar chart, pie chart, circle graph, and an indeniable passion for thinking outside the box when it comes to representing data in alternative ways.