Tufte and stuffte

In my other class, ENGL 408C: The Rhetoric of Digital Design, we often talk about design principles and the effects of having a ‘noisy’ site vs. something simple.  This was reiterated by Tufte in today’s class with the 1+1=3 (or more) statement.  From what I gather, Tufte is asserting that what we don’t say is almost as important as what we do say, that is to mean whether something in a design is implicit or explicit.  Consider some websites for example. 

– Google has taken a lot of time into making a clear, clean design.  There are an abundance of things Google can be used for (more than looking at pictures of cats), things that are there if you want to access them.  For example, if I want to search for ‘jaguars’ but do not want to see any pictures of the car, I would enter ‘jaguar -car’ in the search field.  Now, this may seem abstract, but this is a function that the creators of Google chose to hide from the average viewer.  Why?  Because it creates space.  This is also seen through the fact that you have essentially two options from the main screen – search, or switch search fields (images, scholar, maps, etc.).  By omitting these advanced fields from the main screen, it creates an illusion of simplicity all the while offering complexity.

In contrast, a site like Yahoo does the opposite.  The amount of noise generated from ads, videos, graphics, and images detracts from it value, effectively decreasing its popularity and functionality.  I think this is the kind of thing Tufte was getting at when he gave the example of the air traffic controller.  The images with a black border were less appealing to look at than that with no background.  This is due to the visual noise – the idea that we skip over things that look confusing or cluttered.  Ironically, I think this is demonstrated in Alex White’s book, as I find it very hard to follow due to the amount of noise.  The mish-mashed images, awkward placement of text and interesting choice of textual hierarchy make it near impossible to read through a chapter without interruption. 

What do you guys think?

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One thought on “Tufte and stuffte

  1. Quick comment: looking at it through your analysis, is it any wonder that every website on this list of “Best of Web Design in 2012” is fairly simple and eye-catching? Plus, almost nothing is boxed-in unnecessarily, and the ones I like best are those that integrate their backgrounds with the content.

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