Photography by Hart Boyd

From ARCADE Issue 31.4. Subscribe to receive ARCADE in print.

What books are essential reading for information designers? Compiling such a list is terribly difficult, as the field includes several sub-areas, including data visualization, the visualization of processes and systems, as well as the design of signage, forms, dashboards and other artifacts and tools for human use. The selection below touches on all of these areas, but there are many, many more.

Envisioning Information by Edward Tufte

Self-described by Tufte as his most design orientated book. Richly illustrated with a wide range of both modern and historical examples that demonstrate Tufte’s key theories on high data-ink ratio, chart junk, small multiples, layering and separation.

Edward Tufte Envisioning Information - Design Book


Information Anxiety by Richard Saul Wurman

Notable for the presentation of Wurman’s Five Hat Racks or “LATCH”—his method for organizing information by Location, Alphabet, Time, Category and Hierarchy. While somewhat dated now (published in 1989, updated as Information Anxiety 2 in 2000), it's still a very interesting, highly personal and wide-ranging, post-modern manifesto on the need to “transform information into structured knowledge.”

Richard Saul Wurman Information Anxiety - Design Book


The Numbers Game by Michael Blastland, Andrew Dilnot

A simple, easy-to-read introduction to statistics (and statistical error) from BBC journalist Michael Blastland and economist Andrew Dilnot. The cases cited by the authors are very accessible and nontechnical.

Micheal Blastland - The Numbers Game - Information Design Book


The Information Design Handbook by Jenn Visocky O’Grady, Ken Visocky O’Grady

Designing Information by Joel Katz

Both of these books are short, well-organized introductions to the principles of visual perception and information organization. These “bridge” textbooks explain basic perceptual psychology to designers and present simple design principles to a more technical audience.

Jenn Ken Viscoky O'Grady Information Design Handbook

Joel Katz Designing Information - Book


Data Flow: Visualising Information in Graphic Design Edited by R. Klanten, N. Bourquin, S. Ehmann, F. van Heerden, T. Tissot

Published by Gestalten, an extensive, cutting-edge collection of innovative diagrams and data visualizations. The editors have compiled a particularly sophisticated and innovative survey of work from all over the world. This 2008 title was followed in 2010 by Data Flow 2.

Visual Information in Graphic Design - Book


Visual Storytelling: Inspiring a New Visual Language Edited by R. Klanten, S. Ehmann, F. Schulze

Another beautiful Gestalten compendium, but with greater focus on narrative information graphics. Includes interviews with well-regarded practitioners such as The New York Times Graphics Department and Francesco Franchi, art director for IL-Intelligence in Lifestyle, the monthly magazine of Il Sole 24 ORE.

Visual Storytelling - Design Information Book


Information Graphics by Sandra Rendgen, Edited by Julius Wiedemann

An enormous (10" x 15" x 3") large-scale survey of superbly reproduced information graphics, organized according to Richard Wurman’s Five Hat Racks: Location, Alphabet, Time, Category and Hierarchy. A typically bold and lavish Taschen production. The introductory essays (by Wurman, Paolo Ciuccarelli, Simon Rodgers and Sandra Rendgen) are quite good.

Sandra Rendgen Information Graphics - Design Book


Visual Strategies: A Practical Guide to Graphics for Scientists and Engineers by Felice C. Frankel, Angela H. DePace; Designed by Stefan Sagmeister

A unique collaborative effort between research scientist/science photographer Felice Frankel, biologist Angela DePace and designer Stefan Sagmeister. A detailed guide specifically for scientists and engineers who need to create informative figures that explain their research findings.

Frankel Sagmeister Visual Strategies - Information Design Book


The Data Journalism Handbook by Jonathan Gray, Lucy Chambers, Liliana Bounegru

An open-source guidebook that explains how to access, analyze and display public and private data to support the development and writing of news stories. Available for download as a free PDF at Produced as a joint initiative of the European Journalism Centre and the Open Knowledge Foundation.

Jonathan Gray Data Journalism Handbook - Design Information Book


The Feltron Annual Report by Nicholas Felton

Since 2005, information designer Nicholas Felton has documented all aspects of his personal life (waking/sleeping times, musical tastes, meals, travel, exercise, etc.) by creating infographics that are compiled into the annual “Feltron” report. The resulting explorations are data visualization as art.

Nicholas Felton - Feltron Annual Report 2007 - Design Information Book

Nicholas Felton - Feltron Annual Report 2010 - Design Information Book

Nicholas Felton - Feltron Annual Report 2012 - Design Information Book