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The Truthful Art


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Table of Contents

  • Preface: It All Begins With a Spark
  • Introduction: The Island of Knowledge and the Shoreline of Wonder
  • Chapter 1: What We Talk About When We Talk About Visualization
  • Chapter 2: The Five Qualities of Great Visualizations
  • Chapter 3: The Truth Continuum
  • Chapter 4: Of Conjectures and Uncertainty
  • Chapter 5: Basic Principles of Visualization
  • Chapter 6: Exploring Data With Simple Charts
  • Chapter 7: Visualizing Distributions
  • Chapter 8: Revealing change
  • Chapter 9: Seeing Relationships
  • Chapter 10: Mapping Data
  • Chapter 11: Confidence and Significance
  • Chapter 12: On Creativity and Innovation
  • An Epilogue on What Lies Ahead

Promotional Information

The Truthful Art is an introduction to quantitative thinking and statistical and cartographical representation written specifically for journalists and designers. A follow-up to The Functional Art, it goes into the specifics of how to create functional charts, maps, and graphs. Part 1 in The Truthful Art provides a broad introduction to statistics, written with journalists and designers in mind. Cairo avoids using jargon and formulas, focusing instead on how to manage and interpret data sets, and how to extract stories from them. In Part 2, Cairo gets down to business giving specific advice on how to use charts and maps in infographics and visualization. Readers will learn what kind of statistical charts exist and how to use them correctly; what maps are with an introduction to cartography terms and techniques; the basics of maps including how to create locator maps and how to understand basic cartographical terms such as projection, scale, symbolization, etc.; and the main kinds of thematic maps (choropleth, isopleth, proportional symbol, etc.) and how to use them. In Part 3, Cairo leaves the classroom and enters the real world with an in-depth look at how information graphics and visualization teams are organized at publications around the world including The New York Times, La Nacion (Costa Rica), Estado de S (c)o Paulo (Brazil), and more. He also explains how to develop a successful style book for graphics using sample pages from several real style books for examples. Part 4, the last section of the book, features interviews with six to 10 leading designers of charts and maps including Jer Thorp, Amanda Cox, Ben Fry, and more.

About the Author

Alberto Cairo is the Knight Chair in Visual Journalism at the School of Communication of the University of Miami (UM), where he heads specializations in infographics and data visualization. He's also director of the visualization program of UM's Center for Computational Science, and Visualization Innovator-in-Residence at Univision. Cairo is the author of the books Infografia 2.0: Visualizacion interactiva de informacion en prensa, published exclusively in Spain in 2008, and The Functional Art: An Introduction to Information Graphics and Visualization (New Riders, 2012.) Over the past two decades, Cairo has been director of infographics and visualization at news organizations in Spain and Brazil, in addition to consulting with companies and educational institutions in more than 20 countries. You can find Cairo at or on Twitter, where he is @albertocairo.


"Alberto Cairo is widely acknowledged as journalism's preeminent data viz wiz. He is also journalism's preeminent data scholar. As newsrooms rush to embrace data journalism as a new tool-and toy-Cairo sets the standard for how data should be understood, analyzed, and presented. The Truthful Art is both a manifesto and a manual for how to use data to accurately, clearly, engagingly, imaginatively, beautifully, and reliably inform the public." - Jeff Jarvis, professor at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and author of Geeks Bearing Gifts: Imagining New Futures for News
"A feast for both the eyes and mind, Alberto Cairo's The Truthful Art deftly explores the science-and-art-of data visualization. The book is a must-read for scientists, educators, journalists, and just about anyone who cares about how to communicate effectively in the information age." - Michael E. Mann, Distinguished Professor, Penn State University and author of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars

"If I were smarter, had more patience with academia, and had more focus, I might turn out to be more like Alberto, closer to the brilliance that he applies to the nature of information architecture. His title explains a lot: truth represents a most fundamental of attitudes, in questions asked, answers given and journeys taken. This [book] is a must on your thoughtful shelf of understanding."- Richard Saul Wurman, founder of the TED Conference
"Alberto Cairo is a great educator and an engaging storyteller. In The Truthful Art he takes us on a rich, informed, and well-visualized journey that depicts the process by which one scrutinizes data and represents information. The book synthesizes a lot of knowledge and carefully explains how to create effective visualizations with a focus on statistical principles. The Truthful Art will be incredibly useful to both practitioners and students, especially within the arts and humanities, such as those involved in data journalism and information design."- Isabel Meirelles, professor at OCAD University (Canada) and author of Design for Information
"As soon as I started immersing myself in The Truthful Art, I was horrified (and somewhat ashamed) to realize how much I didn't know about data visualization. I've spent most of my career pursuing a more illustrative way to present data, but Alberto Cairo's clarifying prose superbly explained the finer points of data viz. Since Alberto warns us that "[data is] always noisy, dirty, and uncertain," everyone in this business had better read his book to find out how to properly construct visualizations that not only tell the truth, but also allow us to interact meaningfully with them."- Nigel Holmes, founder of Explanation Graphics "To communicate data clearly, you have to think about it clearly. The Truthful Art dives deep and provides an enlightened introduction to the 'power tools' of data experts: science, statistics, and visualization."- Fernanda Viegas and Martin Wattenberg, research scientists, Google "The Truthful Art is essential reading for my visual communication students and for anyone (at any level) who cares about telling a story visually. Get this book, read it, act on it. If you're looking for help to put your data visualization on the right track, this is it."- John Grimwade, assistant professor, School of Visual Communication, Ohio University

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