First Word: If you get this book, I don’t suggest doing so for a black & white device or a handheld. (So small Kindle is likely a bad idea. iPad would be fine.) There’s a lot of graphics and meaningful color use, so I think small screen or b&w would be a bad experience.
As to the content…
If you’re doing anything with big data, designing dashboards, or otherwise dealing with info graphics, this is a great read. We’ve had the cliche of “Death by PowerPoint” for awhile now, but the reality is solid presentations and graphical representations of data can show us patterns and clarity in data not typically available from raw tables. (Even if a lot of the weaker efforts have resulted in serious audience abuse via PowerPoint.)
The problems with a lot of data presentations now is the same thing that was at issue when desktop publishing hit in the 80s and early web sites showed up in the 90s. Lack of standards, wide skill gaps among users, and sophistication or availability of affordable production tools. (Today we may also need to add data access and programming skills in some cases.) Yes, there’s some rules out there and the typical templates with Excel or PowerPoint do help. As well, we’re even seeing some web services to help build out some funky info graphic type visuals. But these days we’re dealing with many more dimensions and facets of data then ever before. We’re looking more at not only change over time, but rates of change and changes in those rates of change! Plus federating data from multiple sources. Add it up and it’s one whole big mess of data. Expressing multidimensional data in 2D – be it screen or paper – is more of a challenge than ever. There is some help out there. We’re starting to see some books and papers to build a Body of Knowledge. Though if you do a book search for “Visualization” you’re more likely to get self-help titles to help you creatively visualize rather than craft best ways to communicate data!
Not every chapter in the edited works in Beautiful Visualization necessarily has the best answers, but they all have great starting places for thought. Personally, I didn’t find the Wordle chapter terribly illuminating. And the homage paid to “Beauty” in visualizations may have been a little thick. In the end though, I think the language used in the various chapters will help frame the discussions we’ll need to have while building new products. There’s a lot of value in how the authors show the different modal needs of Presentation vs. Exploration, methods for reducing Complexity, zooming vs. filtering, and… of course… aspects of Social Network Analysis. Overall, I found the book useful for putting language and definition to tools and techniques to ideas that for me were still very vague.”