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.
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.”
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 datajournalismhandbook.org. Produced as a joint initiative of the European Journalism Centre and the Open Knowledge Foundation.
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.