• Qinyu Ding

The Truthful Art - Intro, Ch1 & Ch2

Updated: Jan 29, 2019

The first three chapters gave me a better understanding of what exactly data visualizations are, which completely overturned everything I thought I knew about data visualizations.


I cannot tell how many times the word 'exploration' has showed up in the first three chapters. Before reading this book, it had never occured to me that enabling exploration should be one of the prime value of data visualizations. Clarity used to be my primary critieria to evaluate a data visualization work. Aesthetic came next. That's why I took the bait of the following figure so easily.


Cairo, A. (2016). The truthful art: Data, charts, and maps for communication. New Riders.p.46

I didn't really read this visualization, I just looked at it. In a couple of minutes (or even worse, seconds), I told myself,"No problem.I got it." However, is 'no question' equal to 'complete understanding'? The answer is absolutely negative. I began to wonder how many news/charts/data I had 'read' in this way. This experience made me realize that how design can direct the process of interpretation. Therefore, as a designer, 'to deliver the best obtainable version of the truth' should be placed the highest value on.



So what exactly does 'allows exploration and discovery' mean? This question has been haunted me throughout the reading. I tried to look for real examples to help me differentiate explanatory infographics and exploratory ones. And then I found this amazing one - Google Hot Trends Fullscreen.


This work visualizes Google search queries in real-time. It keeps changing every single second. But there is no preconceived bias - every query is displayed in the same fontsize, same size of grid and at the same speed. Nothing is highlighted, each reader is welcome to read it and has their own discovery.


Talking about exploration, I found myself keep asking these questions while reading:


"How to make an exploratory visualization?"

"During the design process, what makes the difference between an explanatory visualization and an exploratory infographics?"


My answers to these questions for now are:

  • Get as much information related to your purpose as possible

  • Fact check the data

  • Thoroughly understand the data

  • Don't predefine any of the data

  • Translate your data in the clearest way

Are they right or wrong? I think the rest of the book can help me refine/support/refute them. We'll see.

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