The blog world today is full of links to Edward Tufte's sparklines, a design element to display time series data in text. Read the article, it's interesting.
sorry about the fuzziness and scaling,
your computer screen isn't 1200dpi
But as nice as the device of a tiny graph is, I don't think it works the way he suggests. I object to his emphasis on "word-size graphics" that "enable them to be embedded in text and tables". The last thing I want when reading a paragraph is a tiny little data display breaking the flow. The sparklines look fine when they're by themselves as part of a tabular display. But in the middle of a paragraph they call too much attention to themselves. And how are you supposed to set a line when one of the "words" is half the line length and the spacing doesn't break well?

I occasionally worship at the Church of Tufte and have taken a lot of inspiration from his emphasis on simple and clean design. But many of his ideas seem awfully hard to apply well. A particular frustration is that many of Tufte's design elements rely heavily on 1200dpi multi-colour printing on fine paper. That's great, but these days all of my design is for 100dpi computer screens.

Tufte has written amazing and comprehensible books that have had a good influence on everyday design. But often when people cite Tufte it's just "oooh, pretty" without really thinking about where the ideas are applicable.

  2004-03-02 16:42 Z