Friday, 7 January 2011

A book a week in 2010: Information is Beautiful by David McCandless

Media140, TED, dConstruct... David McCandless is on the roll call of the all great and good geek camps, unconferences and speaker events knocking around the media world at the moment.

My first exposure to him came from various Information is Beautiful infographics that have gone viral on Twitter over the last two years. I also saw him at a Media140 event in Kings Cross last October.

Have you switched off yet? Are you muttering "bloody media types, what's this infographics bollocks all about?" Bear with me.

David McCandless is one of the most - if not the most - influential creative data journalist of our time. He's published internationally in Wired, The Guardian and suchlike. His blog - Information is Beautiful - contains thoughts and illustrations showcasing his talent. Information is Beautiful is his latest book, based on the blog.

He takes data - boring lists, tables, spreadsheets, facts, figures and statistics - and turns them into intuitive, fun, exciting, interactive graphics and images that make sense of the information, even for a novice or those with Dyscalculia.

Not only is it a stunning piece of publishing - beautiful hardback edition; spot laminate cover; tasteful, contemporary colour palette; matt uncoated paper; gorgeous typography (sorry, book sniffer alert) - it's also a delight to read.

Considering myself a cool media type, I thought I'd at least try to be restrained with this review. The problem is, I can't. From the minute I picked it up, it had me laughing out loud at the gentle piss-taking in the captions. I railed at the injustices in the world that the graphics showed, then marvelled at how he'd come up with such brilliant ways to illustrate data.

I've frogmarched at least three people to a bookshop to buy it. Even my dad, a former IT Director who was around when the internet was first invented, who worked on computers as big as Wembley stadium, was impressed.

And it's not just a nice book to look at. It's got legs as a work of reference. We're going to get another copy in the office for inspiration on how we present our research. If you're struggling to put a presentation together, it's stuffed full of ideas.

McCandless's mind must be a car crash of data and creativity. But he somehow makes sense of the chaos and shows what can be done to make an illuminating and powerful point. It's an exhilarating read.

(Image source: Information is Beautiful by kind permission of David McCandless)
Now go and buy it!

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