Information-visualization guru and famed PowerPoint debunker Edward Tufte explains how businesses would think better, make better decisions and present themselves more powerfully if only they would learn to talk — both internally and externally — in facts.
Edward R. Tufte is best known for his revolutionary books about the visual communication of data and information and his popular traveling course promoting his theories and methods. Tufte, dubbed “the da Vinci of data” by the New York Times, saw his profile in management circles raised by an essay about Microsoft Corp.’s PowerPoint (it appears in his most recent book, Beautiful Evidence, Graphics Press, 2006) that laid out the corrosive influence that presentation software has on thought. Tufte, professor emeritus at Yale University, is not just a critic. He’s a practitioner, too: He self-publishes his books to his exacting standards, and he recently debuted his first major museum project, a show of sculptures and prints, at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, in Ridgefield, Connecticut. At his home in Connecticut, surrounded by his sculptures and his dogs, Tufte held forth with authority on everything from the pros and cons of iPhone jailbreaking to why the backstage demands of rock stars aren’t as absurd as they might seem. But most of all, he discussed his big ideas about information presentation and how companies can differentiate themselves by not doing “the stupid things every other company does.”
On the (Very, Very Bad) Design of Corporate Web Sites
The front page of a good news site will have 300 links on it. That’s great. And so the question is: How come your corporate Web site has only seven links on its opening screen, and the links are called “sharing our values,” “participation” and so on? No user has ever asked Google to show him all the Web sites about sharing your company’s values.
The leading question
How can companies best present themselves and their products?
- Concentrate on delivering facts, not pitches.Deliver as many of those facts as you can.
- Don’t count on the marketing department to make this happen.
- Look to news sites and scientific publications for models of success.
A corporate Web site should do what a good news Web site does. If you look at the really successful Web sites where there are millions of hits, especially nonfiction Web sites, the New York Times and Google News, they all have 300 links on the opening page.