Learning the Tufte Way to Present Information

Source: The Economist, 31 Jan 2015

TaoSecurity Blog readers know I am a fan of Edward Tufte. When I see a diagram that I believe captures the tenets of his philosophy of presenting information, I try to share it with readers.

Two weeks ago in its 31 January 2015 edition, The Economist newspaper published Saudi Arabia: Keeping It in the Family. The article discussed the ascension of King Salman to the Saudi crown. The author emphasized the advanced age of Saudi kings since the founding of the monarchy in 1932.

To make the point graphically, the article included the graphic at left. It captured the start and end of the reigns of the monarchs, their ages at the beginning and end of their reigns, and the median age of the population.

Readers are able to quickly compare the duration of each monarch's reign, the monarch's ages, and the trend toward older monarchs. Readers can see the traditional widening gap in ages of rulers compared to the population, as well as the recent closing of that gap as the population becomes slightly older.

I would have preferred to have seen King Abdel Aziz, founder of Saudi Arabia, included beyond the abbreviated line and asterisk. Perhaps the sources for the image didn't include median population age prior to 1950?

Nevertheless, this is an excellent example of a Tufte-esque graphic, in my opinion.

I strongly recommend attending Tufte's one-day class, which will occur in the DC area at the end of March.


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