Small multiples

I’ve seen quite a few examples of the genre of work in the video above (though this is a particularly good one: do watch it to the end). Oddly, I happened to watch it just before reading the following passage on “small multiples” in Envisioning Information:  

At the heart of quantitative reasoning is a single question: Compared to what? Small multiple designs, multivariate and data bountiful, answer directly by visually enforcing comparisons of changes, of the differences among objects, of the scope of alternatives. For a wide range of problems in data presentation, small multiples are the best design solution. 1

Last time I read Tufte extensively was in the context of doing information design work for the ACID/ABC Pool project. Today it is in the context of thinking about how people make sense of information in the context of digital video archives. I’ve been thinking for a while that one of the powerful aspects of the digital video archive is that it can allow multiple visual comparison in a way that physical archives can’t due to the limitations of analogue technology. “Small multiples” is definitely something I want to explore in more depth in the next stage of my PhD research.

  1. Tufte, E.R., 1990. Envisioning Information, Graphics Press. 67