Rethinking “chart junk”

May 10, 2010 § Leave a comment

Click on the image for a copy of the study.

With its minimalist approach, Edward Tufte’s book “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information” changed the way many people view information graphics. Charts should be free of embellishments, or “chart junk,” Tufte said, because they can distort the information and make the charts more difficult to understand.

Not so, according to a study out of the Interaction Lab a the University of Saskatchewan.

The researchers showed test subjects graphics made by Nigel Holmes–whose hallmark style mashes up illustrations and charts–and unembellished versions of the same graphics. The report concludes that readers can understand embellished charts just as easily as unembellished ones. It also found that readers were able to retain the information longer if they viewed the embellished charts, and they simply liked the embellished ones more.


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