Many consider Edward Tufte to be one of the most important figures in the field of information design.
Edward Rolf Tufte, Ph.D., 69, is a professor emeritus at Yale University of statistics, information design, interface design and political economy. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Stanford University before going on to Yale for a Ph.D. in political science. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences.
Tufte taught courses in political economy and data analysis at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. After a 10-year teaching period at Princeton, he returned to Yale in 1977 as a faculty member.
In 1974 at Princeton, Tufte teamed up with a renowned statistician and data analyst, John W. Tukey, where together they taught a seminar on statistical graphics. That experience led to Tufte’s first book, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.
Tufte took the manuscript to several publishers. However, publishers missed the allure of the book’s argument. They proposed many changes, a small press run and a high price for the book. So instead, Tufte took out a second mortgage on his house, got bank loans, set up his own publishing house named Graphics Press, and self-published his first book at $36 a copy.
The wide assortment of good information design examples Tufte provides in his works include pages from Galileo’s 17thcentury books, modern epidemiological maps, charts of century-spanned sunspot observations, a Czechoslovakian airline map and schedule from the 1930s, a 1937 Japanese spy’s copy of an amazingly complex yet clear railroad timetable for the island of Java, and Constantine Anderson’s famous isometric map of midtown Manhattan.
Tufte has provided statistics and information design consultation to several organizations including IBM, Bose, Fidelity Investments, Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard, the U.S. Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Science Foundation, the New Jersey Transit system, and several news media outlets including NBC, CBS, Newsweek and The New York Times. In 1980 and 1984 he worked as a consultant to The New York Times helping design its election polls and poll findings.
In March 2010, President Obama announced his intent to appoint several individuals to serve on the Recovery Independent Advisory Panel saying, “These impressive individuals will be valued additions to our team as we work to confront the challenges facing our nation. I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come.” Edward Tufte was among those appointed to this panel that advises The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, whose job is to track and explain $787 billion in recovery stimulus funds.
Tufte makes his home in Cheshire, CT with his wife Inge Druckrey, a design teacher at both Yale University and the Rhode Island School of Design.
- Bruckner, D.J.. “DESIGN VIEW; Trouble in ‘Flatland,’ or The War Against Confusion .” New York Times 2 Sep 1990 <http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0CE5D9133AF931A3575AC0A966958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=print>.
- “Edward Tufte.” AIGA <http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/medalist-edwardtufte>.
- “Edward Tufte Presidential Appointment.” <http://www.edwardtufte.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=0003e0&topic_id=1&topic=>