skip to Main Content
This is a photo of a book cover: Good Charts, by Scott Berinato.

Book Review: Good Charts

I’ve had Scott Berinato’s Good Charts on my bookshelf for a couple of years and finally had a chance to read it in June.

I read a decent pile of research communication books and articles each year, and the same themes and guidance tend to crop up across them. However, Good Charts left me with a bunch of unique takeaways, and I’m glad I took the time to read it.

Here are the four things I liked best about the book!

1) The dedication.

This is a photo of a scatter plot depicting a positive trend, with three extremely positive outliers labeled M, E, and S.

For those of you who aren’t super familiar with scatterplots, allow me to interpret: There are three people in Berinato’s life, “M,” “E,” and “S,” who are exceptionally awesome. It’s the ultimate nerdy love note, and it made me swoon.

2) The validation of “idea people.”

Some days, I feel like the only data visualization person who isn’t using Tableau to create mind-blowingly complex charts and graphs. Berinato does a good job of demonstrating the unique value of tool experts and subject-matter experts. Knowing how to use a tool does not automatically mean that you will create awesome charts. (This is exemplified by the countless terrible graphs that have been generated since the advent of easy-to-use graphing software in the 1980’s.)  You need idea people and technical people to be effective and persuasive.

3) The concrete guidance.

Berinato provides readers will all sorts of practical guidelines and tools. These include:

  • Discussion of how a chart’s data and purpose align with needed skills, appropriate media, and ideal chart type;
  • Delineation a four-step chart-making process, and suggested amounts of time to spend on each;
  • A chart of data visualization software packages, along with their pros, cons, cost, and capabilities;
  • Components of a good chart and suggested space allocations for each;
  • Questions to assess the ethics of a chart
  • Recommendations for how to orally present a chart; and
  • A process for critiquing others’ charts.

4) The quotes.

The entire book resonated with me, but I especially loved these little gems:

“Programs visualize data. People visualize ideas.” (p. 75)

“Simplicity is courageous.” (p. 131)

Are you reading any great data visualization or research communication books this summer? Tell us about it in the comments!

This Post Has 0 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back To Top