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Edward Tufte’s The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (1998, 2nd edition 2001) is a classic book, arguably his best, and certainly a key text in the field of information graphics (which encompasses cartography). I know some cartography courses use the book as a text.

I recall being inspired by the book as a neophyte cartographer back in the late 1990s.

The book looked great: its design communicated the importance of design (when most other cartography and information graphics books were clunky and poorly designed). The tone was serious and high-minded: I was designing information graphics. And I think I absorbed Tufte’s minimalist design philosophy, although cartographic design, at least the way I learned it, was largely minimalist, with no allowance for flourish, fake 3D embellishment, or other chartjunk (or “map-crap” as I call it in the Making Maps book).

While I won’t impugn the importance of lofty inspiration, I did wonder what kind of practical guidelines I could derive from Tufte’s book. You know, specific stuff that would help me to design and make better maps. I sat down one day and made a list of Tufteisms from the book: that list is below.


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