Kostelnick Can See Clearly Now That Tufte’s Gone, He Can See All Rhetoric In His Way

In the reading for today, Charles Kostelnick responds directly to Tufte’s assumptions about ink usage and chart junk. Kostelnick in just the second paragraph mocks Tufte and his principles of data communication. Charles tasks us with defining clarity, and how it relates to the billions of people in our world. He sort of defines it as the optimal use of principles of design to transmit data to the audience. While he admits that Tufte may be correct about protecting readers from the possible lies brought by charts with visual flair, those charts often catch the eye of the reader in the first place unlike the boring ones Tufte promotes. Kostelnick really believes that charts and graphs should be targeted towards the audience that you are pursuing, so more clean and clearly understandable for science types and with more leeway for graphical flourishes if targeting the more common and average denizens. Kostelnick also moves us into the modern age where charts are no longer static images in a book or journal and have the ability to be altered by the audience. This changes the dynamic and allows them to be more cooperatively designed. These interactive charts are only enticing if they are more creative than the ink-conscious work of Tufte.

Overall I agree that clarity is a sort of nebulous term that can mean different things to different people. I think that with the modern advances we have and the possible engagement that that brings to the audience, visual flair most definitely deserves a place in the graphics produced. Tufte had a pretty great mindset for the world of print, but today we are in the digital age. We are less readers and consumers and more creators and editors now, so our data intake and sources should attempt to reflect that in their design.


Here is an interactive display of how far it is from the sun to the planets. In this display the moon is one pixel and everything else is to scale according to it. You then scroll through the solar system and it shows the huge distance that is between every body in it.


Why does this display work so well? Would this make Tufte angry? How much on a scale of one to ten? What’s better, nachos or caramel corn? There are many questions.


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