New Book by Stephen Few

Hey folks. I wanted to point out the new book by Stephen Few. If you build dashboards of any kind, you should definitely consider getting acquainted with Stephen’s work. He’s the father of bullet-graphs, the catalyst for the rejection of pie-charts, and the primary source of most of the ideas we all espouse about simplicity in dashboards.

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His new offering, “Information Dashboard Design”, is the second edition of his landmark book.

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In his new book, Stephen guides us through the mechanics of how humans perceive visualizations, and then translates that into guidelines we can use to synthesize data into effective dashboards. This second edition is a significant rewrite that contains lots of new concepts and examples. Focusing on visualization at a glance, this edition takes into account tools and technologies that have evolved since the first edition more than six years ago.

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Far from being a dry read, his style is so direct and hard-lined I have to smile reading his work. For example, he shows (IN FULL COLOR) real examples of dashboards he’s found, publicly flogging them down, telling us what not to do. He then walks us through some excellent examples of dashboards, giving us clear vision for our own data.

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As an aside, he also contributes regularly to his own blog (Perceptual Edge) where his trademark sharp tongue and direct approach makes me laugh almost every time I visit. In fact, just this week he posted an article on the notion of Visualizations for the Blind. Here’s a taste from that post. By the way, note that in the first sentence he references himself from his own book. Anyone who can reference their own recognized work is a badass.

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“I’ll begin by stating my fundamental position: a dashboard that is accessible to the blind is a contradiction in terms. “A dashboard is a visual display of the most important information needed to achieve one or more objectives, consolidated and arranged on a single screen so the information can be monitored at a glance” (Few, 2005). No forms of data visualization, not just dashboards jam-packed with graphics, can be made fully accessible to someone who is blind. I am not insensitive to the needs of people who are visually or otherwise impaired. I am merely pointing out what anyone who understands data visualization knows: no channel of perception other than vision can fully duplicate the contents of graphs.”

“I support the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA became law to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities. It does not, however, heal disabilities. It cannot give sight to the blind. It can require that organizations remove roadblocks to equal rights for those with disabilities and accommodate them in reasonable ways, but it should never try to equalize the playing field between those with sight and those without by forcing those with sight to wear blindfolds. Unfortunately, some efforts to expand accessibility venture into this territory, and I find that intolerable.”

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And ooooh the comments are just delicious. You’ve got to check them out.

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You owe it to yourself to buy Stephen’s book and get acquainted with his work.

2 thoughts on “New Book by Stephen Few

  1. Jeff Weir

    What cracks me up about Stephen is that for someone who writes about data visualization, he’s very black and white.

    He doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and he finds it very easy to distinguish the fools. They’re the ones that don’t agree with him.

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