Report: Edward Tufte’s One Day Course: A Review

Last Monday, I got to attend Edward Tufte’s one-day course. I was looking forward to a day of interesting examples, ideas, and discussions, but was disappointed by the amount of rambling and largely historical examples, with little connection to real, current visualization (or presentation) work.

The Setting

The course took place in the large ballroom of the Westin Seattle, which was set up for around 500–600 people. Maybe it was naive to assume a more intimate setting, but I had imagined around 100 people there. There was, consequently, no interaction with the audience of any sort, other than people lining up to get their books autographed before the course started or during lunch break.

As part of the course, you get his four books in a little cardboard box with a handle. With the box, you are handed a sheet of paper with a reading assignment: one or two chapters from each book in the first hour. Unfortunately, he does not actually make use of that reading in his presentation, presumably because he knows that only a fraction of attendees actually read everything they’re supposed to before he gets started.