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This book found its beginnings as a natural outgrowth of Toby Segaran and Jeff Hammerbacher’s Beautiful Data (O’Reilly), which explores everything from data gathering to data storage and organization and data analysis. While working on that project, it became clear to us that visualization—the practice of presenting information for consumption as art—was a topic deep and wide enough to warrant a separate examination. When done beautifully, successful visualizations are deceptive in their simplicity, offering the viewer insight and new understanding at a glance. We hoped to help those new to this growing field uncover the methods and decision-making processes experts use to achieve this end.
Particularly intriguing when assembling a list of potential contributors was how many ways the word beautiful can be interpreted. The book that founded this series, Andy Oram and Greg Wilson’s Beautiful Code (O’Reilly), defined beauty as a simple and elegant solution to some kind of problem. But visualization—as a combination of information and art—naturally combines both problem solving and aesthetics, allowing us to consider beauty in both the intellectual and classic senses.
We hope you will be as delighted as we are by the diversity of backgrounds, projects, and approaches represented in this book. Different as they are, the chapters do offer some themes to the thoughtful and observant. Look for ideas about storytelling, color use, levels of granularity in the data, and user exploration woven throughout the book. Tug on these threads, and see where they take you in your own work.
The royalties for this book are being donated to Architecture for Humanity (http://www.architectureforhumanity (dot) org), an organization dedicated to making the world better by bringing design, construction, and development services to the places where they are most critically needed. We hope you’ll consider how your own design processes shape the world.