His field is almost sui generis, containing bits and pieces of art direction, data-crunching, economics, historical research, and plain old expository writing. It’s often labeled “information architecture,” or “analytic design.” Tufte himself describes it many ways, but one is drawn from a classic piece of science writing: “escaping Flatland,” or using paper’s two dimensions to convey several more.
Tufte’s obsessions and coinages: Content-light splashy graphics, or “chartjunk,” are bad. Little repeated graphics displaying variations, or “small multiples,” are good. Microsoft’s PowerPoint software is an all-conquering monster of crumminess, a threat to life as we know it. Most of all, if you are making a presentation, you can probably say everything you need to on a single folded sheet of eleven-by-seventeen copy paper, and you ought to.
UPDATE 7-5-07: The Stanford Magazine also has a profile that nicely supplements the NYT’s.