Here at Last, “The Functional Art”

I rarely agree to write promotional statements for books. As you can imagine, I’m careful to speak words of praise only for books that are exceptionally good and in tune with the principles that I teach. When I was asked by Alberto Cairo to write a promotional statement for his new book The Functional Art, however, I embraced the opportunity with enthusiasm and gratitude. Consequently, if you look at the back cover of this book, the first quote that you’ll see is the following:

If graphic designer Nigel Holmes and data visualizer Edward Tufte had a child, his name would be Alberto Cairo. In The Functional Art, accomplished graphics journalist Cairo injects the chaotic world of infographics with a mature, thoughtful, and scientifically grounded perspective that it sorely needs. With extraordinary grace and clarity, Cairo seamlessly unites infographic form and function in a design philosophy that should endure for generations.

Stephen Few, author of Show Me the Numbers

As you know if you’ve read much of my work—especially what I write in this blog—I rarely have kind words for infographics. This is because there are relatively few infographic designers who know how to inform graphically. Few have developed the skills that are needed. Few have thought deeply enough and for long enough to become experts. Alberto Cairo is a brilliant exception. I suspect that The Functional Art will be the premier work on infographics for many years to come.

To give you an idea of its contents, here’s the list that appears on the back of the book:

  • Why data visualization should be thought of as “functional art” rather than fine art
  • How to use color, type, and other graphic tools to make your information graphics more effective, not just better looking
  • The science of how our brains perceive and remember information
  • Best practices for creating interactive information graphics
  • A comprehensive look at the creative process behind successful information graphics
  • An extensive gallery of inspirational work from the world’s top designers and visual artists

This is a work of great beauty and usefulness combined: the perfect marriage of form and function. All who are interested in infographic design should read this book closely enough to manifest its lessons in their work. 

Take care,

4 Comments on “Here at Last, “The Functional Art””

By Mike Hayden. October 2nd, 2012 at 8:30 am

Hi Stephen,

I couldn’t agree more with your assessment. I am thoroughly enjoying the book. Alberto Cairo’s web site is worth checking out as well.

By Francis. October 10th, 2012 at 9:02 am

Alberto Cairo will be teaching a free online course called “Introduction to Infographics and Data Visualization”. It starts on October 28 and ends on December 8. Anyone can register.

By Bernard Farrell. October 25th, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Thanks for the pointer Stephen, I just ordered it along with Show Me the Numbers. I lent your Info Dashboard Design book to my manager and (hee hee) he’s started to read it. I’m hoping his next dashboard benefits from it.

By Francis. November 20th, 2012 at 12:57 pm

I’m taking his class (see above) and I’m glad I do. He’s very good at teaching how to tell a story with graphs. The first class filled up fast (2000 registrations) but they just opened a new one for January 2013. Scroll down for registration.