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Teaching to see

Teaching to See, a short movie about Designer and Educator Inge Druckrey is directed by one of my heroes, Edward Tufte. The movie is quite simply amazing, not only because of the subject matter (Druckrey and her stunning work), but also how the design principles it embodies highlight the messages of Tufte’s own portfolio of work.

I was drawn to Tufte’s original books on Information — Beautiful Evidence, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Envisioning Information and Visual Explanations — early in my career as an Information Architect for both the foundational principles and sheer visual delight that they contained.

Now, some 20 years later I keep coming back to them, and to Tufte’s work more broadly. A key reason for this is that it contains so many lessons that help me to better identify (to steal Charlie Munger’s term from an earlier post) those “unrecognised simplicities”:

  • Awareness of space/time/areas of the business that aren’t being used as an equally important element of the problem/opportunity landscape. Why is it there? What is it for? What could it be for?
  • Underlying signal-patterns sitting clearly within the detail-noise. Stepping right back, not forwards helps to create a new lens through which to view a problem/solution differently
  • The importance (including commercial value) of reducing cognitive load on consumers/users of information, to enable the outcomes you’re looking for (rows in spreadsheets versus clean and simple Graphical User Interfaces, VHS top-loader digital clocks versus Amazon One-Click, etc.).

As a life, business, and skill reference, both Teaching to See and Tufte’s body of work more broadly are resources I’ll come back to again and again.



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