Review: Visual Thinking: for Design (Morgan Kaufmann Series in Interactive Technologies)

5 Star, Best Practices in Management, Decision-Making & Decision-Support, Information Technology

Visual ThinkingExciting, Original, Superb Overall, Could be Expanded, July 5, 2008

Colin Ware

I found this book provocative at multiple levels.

At the strategic level, although I have known about and followed Elsevier for decades, I am beginning to perceive a more coherent publishing strategy, and was pleased to see notice of their collaboration with BookAid and the Sabre Foundation to create libraries in developing countries.

At the operational level, I found this book to be a fascinating easy to read and understand integration of cognitive science (what is the brain doing to “see” different forms of visual cues (colors, shapes, groups, etcetera), psychology, art, design, and ultimately engineering of both larger than human structures, and computer graphics.

At the tactical level, the book is clearly a superior collection of critical information and easily a required text for those who would design for the human eye. At this level I would have liked to see more depictions of both buildings and environments, and more depictions of computer screens.

The absence of Library of Congress cataloging data was also a disappointment. The Library of Congress is becoming archaic, I believe publishers are amply competent to provide their own cataloging data, and this is especially important when a book crosses disciplines, e.g. cognitive science, visual intelligence, art, design, computer graphics, etcetera. Indeed, in the process of assigning cataloguing data, the publisher might discover areas where the book is weaker than intended, and send it back for enhancement.

I recommend this book be expanded to add a chapter on “decision support” and an appendix on great practitioners of the visualization of information. Although Tuft is the best known, in part because of his ceasecell promotion of his books and classes, there are at least 25 if not 50 other great visualizers, and a page on each with their photo, short bio, list of publications, and a couple of examples of their work would be a mind-enhancing “walk about” in the field of visual design.

As a textbook, this is a clear five. As adult education is falls to a four, or needs a second book that properly introduces the collective intelligence and semantic web and geospatially and time-based visualizations that are emergent.

In addition to the books recommended by the first reviewer, see also:
Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder
The Design of Dissent: Socially and Politically Driven Graphics
Ambient Findability: What We Find Changes Who We Become
Large Scale Structure and Dynamics of Complex Networks: From Information Technology to Finance and Natural Science (Complex Systems and Interdisciplinary … Systems and Interdisciplinary Science)
The Age of Missing Information
Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin