Bret Victor and Guiding Principles

We often speak of finding and following our passions. Bret Victor, a talented data visualizer and deep thinker on many topics, believes in finding and following great ideas as guiding principles. I met Bret several years ago and became reacquainted with him and his work again this year. One of his recent projects was the creation of the interactive graphics that accompany Al Gore’s newest book Our Choice. Unlike many interactive infographics, Bret’s are both beautiful and uncompromisingly useful, perfectly suited to the audience and task.

Bret and I share an interest in ideas that can serve as guiding principles. We both approach our work in the service of these principles with a keen sense of responsibility. One of the guiding principles of my work can be expressed as:

Individuals usually make better decisions when they learn to think critically (a.k.a., scientifically) and have broad access to information. These individuals can have a positive effect on others if they learn to present information clearly, accurately, and truthfully. Better thinking, based on good information, paired with effective communication, can produce a better world.

Bret talks about the power of guiding principles in a video-recording that you can watch online. One of his own guiding principles, which he pursues in innovative ways, is the idea that the creative process works best when we have an immediate connection with the object of creation. Immediate feedback while creating works around limitations of our brains, allowing us to see what we would otherwise have to imagine with great difficulty. I recommend that you watch this video. You’ll find Bret’s presentation both brilliant and inspiring. If your interest is piqued, you can learn more about Bret Victor and his work at

Take care,

3 Comments on “Bret Victor and Guiding Principles”

By Andrew. March 9th, 2012 at 9:05 am

The image above reminds me very much of an old Hacknot article, “The Three Ages of The Developer”, that you might appreciate. Hacknot was a site that had wonderful essays about software development that emphasized critical thinking and challenged the way the software industry thinks and operates. Unfortunately, several years ago the author apparently lost interest and the domain expired and was taken over by cyber-squatters.

Most of the essays made it into a free PDF book that’s floating around in a couple corners of the internet. The essay to which I’m referring was one of the few that didn’t, so it took a bit more searching to find it in an old feed history. The link to the feed is below – I couldn’t link to the article in question, but if you scroll down you’ll find it (look for “The Three Ages of The Developer”):

Definitely worth reading.

By Victor Blaer. March 12th, 2012 at 6:09 am

That was an awesome talk. Everyone should see this. Thx for the link

By Guy Cuthbert. May 22nd, 2012 at 2:41 am


Thanks for recommending Bret’s work… that truly is an astonishing and inspirational video link. I am humbled.