Design is choice. Life is design. Life is choice.

Creative Commons license courtesy Beverly & Pack

Creative Commons license courtesy Beverly & Pack

Epilogue: Designs for the Display of Information

“Design is choice. The theory of the visual display of quantitative information consists of principles that generate design options and that guide choices among options. The principles should not be applied rigidly or in a peevish spirit; they are not logically or mathematically certain; and it is better to violate any principle than to place graceless or inelegant marks on paper. Most principles of design should be greeted with some skepticism, for word authority can dominate our vision, and we may come to see only through the lenses of word authority rather than with our own eyes.

What is to be sought in designs for the display of information is the clear portrayal of complexity. Not the complication of the simple; rather the task of the designer is to give visual access to the subtle and the difficult — that is,

the revelation of the complex.”

Edward R. Tufte in The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, 2nd Edition

This brief epilogue in an amazing book has some astoundingly profound points. He could be talking about anyone quoting the Bible, the Quran, or UU principles. He’s reminding us that playing lawyer ball is missing the point that you don’t play ball to stick to the rules, but to enjoy the game. You don’t dance to follow the steps rigidly; you dance to dance!

As he suggests we not violate a principle if it forces us to put inelegant marks on paper, similarly putting inelegance into our lives by force-fitting oursevles into a principle is missing the point – and polluting at the same time.

It reminds me a lot of a message in the book Common Courtesy by Judith Martin aka “Miss Manners”. In this hilarious & practical little book, she distinguishes between strictly following manners to the displeasure of everyone versus allowing manners to be a liberating influence, allowing people to be more comfortable and more connected with each other.

If we can still follow the “rules” while we’re living in grace and joy, all the better. Maybe grace and joy trump the rules, though?

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