23 August 2012

The data prison

You should not use tables on posters. But if you insist...

Here is how you are likely to see a table on a poster.

This is a classic example of what Edward Tufte (1990) called “data-imprisonment”: every piece of information in its own separate cell. Academics love to draw boxes around things, so it’s no surprise that you see this done on tables. All. The. Time.

Some don’t stop there.

“Zebra stripes” can work on a table, if the shades are subtle. But they are over used, and most often badly used.

Here is how you are likely to see a table in a journal, laid out by professionals.

See the difference? No vertical lines. Very few horizontal lines. No zebra stripes. It’s done with white space and careful alignment.

Free the data!

Related posts

If you must use a table
Burn your tables


Tufte E. 1990. Envisioning Information. Graphics Press.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Real tables only use horizontal lines. Given the look of it, the last table has most likely been typeset with LaTaX.