3 min readOct 10, 2020


Graphics: 10 Quotes

“As to the propriety and justness of representing sums of money, and time, by parts of space, tho’ very readily agreed to by most men, yet a few seem to apprehend there may possibly be some deception in it, of which they are not aware […]” (William Playfair, “The Commercial and Political Atlas”, 1786)

“If statistical graphics, although born just yesterday, extends its reach every day, it is because it replaces long tables of numbers and it allows one not only to embrace at glance the series of phenomena, but also to signal the correspondences or anomalies, to find the causes, to identify the laws.” (Émile Cheysson, cca. 1877)

“The preliminary examination of most data is facilitated by the use of diagrams. Diagrams prove nothing, but bring outstanding features readily to the eye; they are therefore no substitutes for such critical tests as may be applied to the data, but are valuable in suggesting such tests, and in explaining the conclusions founded upon them.” (Sir Ronald A Fisher, “Statistical Methods for Research Workers”, 1925)

“The aim of the graphic is to make the relationship among previously defined sets appear.” (Jacques Bertin, Semiology of graphics [Semiologie Graphique], 1967)

“Pencil and paper for construction of distributions, scatter diagrams, and run-charts to compare small groups and to detect trends are more efficient methods of estimation than statistical inference that depends on variances and standard errors, as the simple techniques preserve the information in the original data.” (W Edwards Deming, “On Probability as Basis for Action”, American Statistician Vol. 29 (4), 1975)

“The greatest value of a picture is when it forces us to notice what we never expected to see.” (John W. Tukey, “Exploratory Data Analysis”, 1977)

“Graphical excellence is that which gives to the viewer the greatest number of ideas in the shortest time with the least ink in the smallest space.” (Edward R Tufte, “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information”, 1983)

“What about confusing clutter? Information overload? Doesn’t data have to be ‘boiled down’ and ‘simplified’? These common questions miss the point, for the quantity of detail is an issue completely separate from the difficulty of reading. Clutter and confusion are failures of design, not attributes of information.” (Edward R Tufte, “Envisioning Information”, 1990)

“Most dashboards fail to communicate efficiently and effectively, not because of inadequate technology (at least not primarily), but because of poorly designed implementations. No matter how great the technology, a dashboard’s success as a medium of communication is a product of design, a result of a display that speaks clearly and immediately. Dashboards can tap into the tremendous power of visual perception to communicate, but only if those who implement them understand visual perception and apply that understanding through design principles and practices that are aligned with the way people see and think.” (Stephen Few, “Information Dashboard Design”, 2006)

“What is good visualization? It is a representation of data that helps you see what you otherwise would have been blind to if you looked only at the naked source. It enables you to see trends, patterns, and outliers that tell you about yourself and what surrounds you. The best visualization evokes that moment of bliss when seeing something for the first time, knowing that what you see has been right in front of you, just slightly hidden. Sometimes it is a simple bar graph, and other times the visualization is complex because the data requires it.” (Nathan Yau, “Data Points: Visualization That Means Something”, 2013)

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