Numbers: Would you work 7 weeks for free to prevent a depression?

  • Due Jul 28, 2014 at 9:59pm
  • Points 1
  • Questions 1
  • Time Limit None


As someone who has sat through too many engineering presentations, I know firsthand how hard it is to effectively communicate with numbers. The wrong approach causes the audience to tune out or even push back. Yet with some practice, numbers can be used to add credibility, unexpectedness, and even emotion to our communication. In this module you will review and practice strategies for effective data analysis and presentation.

“A car’s fuel gauge is far less significant, environmentally speaking, than its odometer.” – Green Metropolis

“A charlatan can tell a lie in one sentence that a scientist needs 3 paragraphs to rebut.” - John Holdren





Reading & Videos

Read the notes below from Tufte’s The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. This is widely recognized as the best book on the topic and I highly recommend it if you're interested in learning more.

Give the viewer the greatest number of ideas, in the shortest amount of time, with the least ink, in the smallest space. Above all else, show the data. Maximize the data-ink ratio (ink to show data divided by the total ink in graphic).

Friendly Graphic


Words spelled out, elaborate encoding avoided

Abbreviations abound, requiring reader to sort through text to decode

Words read left to right

Words run vertically on y-access, words run in different directions

Little messages help explain data

Graphic requires repeated reference to scattered text

Avoid elaborate cross-hatching, shading, colors. Labels placed on graphic itself, no legend required

Obscure codings require going back and forth between legend and graphic

Graphic attracts viewer, provokes curiosity

Graphic filled with Chartjunk - repellant

If color is used, use blue (can be distinguished by most)

red and green used for contrasts

Type is clear

Type is clotted, overbearing

Type is upper & lower case (w/ serifs)

Type is all caps, sans serif


Watch these videos:

David McCandless - The Beauty of Data Visualization

Hans Rosling - 200 countries, 200 years, 4 minutes

The Conundrum

Make sure that your visual materials satisfy the basics of Tufte's approach. Also, see if you can think of any ways to improve your visuals based on the two videos you watched. You don't need to turn anything in at this point - you will be evaluated on these areas for your written materials and video presentation.

Tweet your epiphany (include "#150tons")

Only registered, enrolled users can take graded quizzes