Course Basics


Required Readings

The main textbooks are four classic books by Edward Tufte, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (VDQ1, 1983 and 2001), Envisioning Information (EI, 1990), Visual Explanations (VE, 1997) and Beautiful Evidence (BE, 2006), all published by Graphic Press. Students will be able to buy all four books (valued at $USD 160), plus the bilingual poster of Napoleon’s March ($USD $18) from me, at the discount price of $130 inclusive of substantial tax, duties, shipping and brokerage fees. This is a direct deal that I have been offered by the author, who I assisted in the writing of his last book, and it works out to much less than the price in any Canadian store. This is the only way I can pass the savings on to you, so please come to the first class with $130 cash to obtain your copies. As soon as you have the books, please try to read a chapter or two a day until you have gotten through the first two books (VDQI and EI respectively). The sooner you read these, and the more carefully you read them, the sooner you’ll be up to speed with the fundamentals of multimodal design.

Since Gingko Press won’t ship to the Carleton bookstore you’ll need to obtain your own copy of  McLuhan’s The Medium is the Massage. The classic 1967 Bantam edition is the one to own, and dog-eared or annotated copies are good luck. Amazingly, Schnapp and Michaels’ Electric Information Age Book (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2012) is already out of print but some copies are still available online where I strongly recommend buying a copy.

Reserve Readings and other Resources

Our sources for all assignments will include the books and journal articles listed in the bibliography below, all of which will be made available on reserve or online in time for the relevant class. As indicated below, in Week 2 we’ll be visiting the National Gallery of Canada to study some rare materials in the library, with a particular focus on the riches of the Art Metropole collection. In Week 3 we’ll be starting in AA 204, then heading to the MacOdrum Library to look at maps and atlases in the Maps, Data and Government Information Centre. Sadly the national map collection is off limits now that Library & Archives Canada is gutting staff and resources and basically shutting down its public services. Luckily the electronic resources are increasing, and I encourage you all to sign up for GIS training if you haven’t already done so. It’s a great opportunity.


Due 17 Jan (5% of final mark): Read all of Tufte VDQI, and BE pp. 122-139. Submit in class a printed containing an analysis, with high quality colour illustrations, of three good statistical graphics not discussed by Tufte, plus one piece of ‘chartjunk.’ Part of the exercise is in selecting cogent examples, so be sure to cast a wide net in the library and/or Google Images. Using some of the criteria established in VDQI, write a brief (150-200 word) synopsis for each of the four designs, using terms developed by Tufte to address their relative strengths and weaknesses. In presenting your argument be sure to integrate text and image, and to deploy supplementary detail images if it helps clarify your argument. It is advisable to select your four examples before you’re too far into the reading, so you can take notes as you go. Be sure to include a caption with the title and source of the illustration. A standard (letter-sized) document format is sufficient but not mandatory; feel free to use some other format if you find it serves the content better.

Due 24 Jan (5% of final mark): Read all of Tufte, EI. Submit in class an analysis, with high quality colour illustrations, of three good maps, charts, diagrams or timetables not discussed by Tufte, plus one bad example. Select at least two of your examples from the maps and atlases in the MacOdrum Library Maps, Data and Government Information Centre, including the many items that Monica Ferguson has laid out for our class. Using some of the criteria established in EI, prepare a brief summary (150-200 word) synopsis of the strengths and weaknesses of each of the four designs. Copyright laws permit you to photocopy 10% of any source, whether a single map or an entire atlas. Be sure to provide full citation crediting the source. Bring an extra copy of all four examples to class, where students will break into groups for discussion. For further insight you can read the chapter on the Minard map in Tufte's Beautiful Evidence.

Due 11 Feb (5% of final mark): By this point all students should be participating fully on the class Pinterest and Google Drive pages, and will be assessed on the quality of their contribution to the class as a whole.

Due April 11/12 (60% of final mark): Date of final crit. Work to be submitted by this date for consolidation on a new web site web site in the ensuing week. Students will be assessed on the basis of their individual contributions to the success of each project.

Class participation (15% of final mark): Like the 11 February grade, this final participation mark will assess each student's contribution to the common good, with particular emphasis on the quality (not quantity) of collaboration in the AMD Google group. Timely and relevant postings on the AMD Pinterest board will also be recognized and rewarded.

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