1. What We Talk About When We Talk About Visualization

No matter how clever the choice of the information, and no matter how technologically impressive the encoding, a visualization fails if the decoding fails. Some display methods lead to efficient, accurate decoding, and others lead to inefficient, inaccurate decoding. It is only through scientific study of visual perception that informed judgments can be made about display methods.

—William S. Cleveland, The Elements of Graphing Data

In the introduction, I threw around terms such as “visualization,” “infographics,” “information graphics,” and so on, without defining them. Each book about visual communication on my shelves uses these terms with a slightly different meaning. So, for consistency ...

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