Lightning Review: the truthful art by Alberto Cairo

Image of the truthful art

Hailed by one of our librarians as a brilliant and seminal text to understanding data visualization, the truthful art is a text that can serve both novices and masters in the field of visualization.

Packed with detailed descriptions, explanations, and images of just how Cairo wants readers to understand and engage with knowledge and data. Nearly every page of this work, in fact, is packed with examples of the methods Cairo is trying to connect his readers to.

Cairo’s work not only teaches readers how to best design their own visualizations, but goes into the process of explaining how to *read* data visualizations themselves. Portions of chapters are devoted to the necessity of ‘truthful’ visualizations, not only because “if someone hides data from you, they probably have something to hide” (Cairo, 2016, p. 49). The exact same data, when presented in different ways, can completely change the audience’s perspective on what the ‘truth’ of the matter is.

The most I read through the truthful art, the harder time I had putting it down. Cairo’s presentations of data, how vastly they could differ depending upon the medium through which they were visualized. It was amazing how Cairo could instantly pick apart a bad visualization, replacing it with one that was simultaneously more truthful and more beautiful.

There is specific portion of Chapter 2 where Cairo gives a very interesting visualization of “How Chicago Changed the Course of Its Rivers”. It’s detailed, informative, and very much a classic data visualization.

Then he compared it to a fountain.

The fountain was beautiful, and designed in a way to tell the same story as the maps Cairo had created. It was fascinating to see data presented in such a way, and I hadn’t fully considered that data could be represented in such a unique way.

the truthful art is here on our shelves in the Scholarly Commons, and we hope you’ll stop and give it a read! It’s certainly worthwhile one!

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