Geeks and design lovers are aflutter on Twitter this morning with the news that President Obama has appointed infographic guru and PowerPoint hater Edward Tufte, a professor emeritus of political science, statistics and computer science at Yale University, to the U.S. Recovery Independent Advisory Panel. Tufte explains on his own site that he’ll help advise the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, “whose job is to track and explain $787 billion in recovery stimulus funds.”
Tufte has attracted worship for his work on information design. Through books, lectures and essays, he advocates infographics that give relevant data room to breathe rather than “chartjunk” that pretties up information without giving an understanding of why it’s useful. He has particular disdain for PowerPoint, writing in a 2003 Wired piece, “If your words or images are not on point, making them dance in color won’t make them relevant.” He argues,
Poking a finger into the eye of thought, these data graphics would turn into a nasty travesty if used for a serious purpose, such as helping cancer patients assess their survival chances. To sell a product that messes up data with such systematic intensity, Microsoft abandons any pretense of statistical integrity and reasoning.