Essential Resources: The most influential visualisation books (part 1)

This is part of a series of posts to share with readers a useful collection of some of the most important, effective and practical data visualisation resources.

This post presents the first part of a collection of books that have had most influence on my knowledge about data visualisation and its many closely-related subject areas. The selection presented includes only the books I own or I have read from a library – I have decided to exclude any books I’ve not yet read, even if they might be on other reading lists. However, I will add emerging texts to the collection as and when I get to them. This collection should be read alongside part two and part three.

The categories used to organise and group the books simply represents an instinctive and personal view for how they have proven valuable to me – I appreciate they could be/will be argued, debated and refined but it will never be perfect! The books in each section are typically sequenced alphabetically. Clicking on the book images will take you to the relevant page (please note these are affiliate links).

** If some of the images fail to display (especially in Internet Explorer), click refresh **


Visualisation and Infographic Design

Beautiful Visualization: Looking at Data through the Eyes of Experts, By Julie Steele and Noah Iliinsky
Cause and Effect: Visualizing Sustainability, By R. Klanten
Creating More Effective Graphs, By Naomi B. Robbins
Data Visualizations: A Successful Design Process, By Andy Kirk
Designing Data Visualizations: Intentional Communication from Data to Display, By Julie Steele and Noah Iliinsky
Elements of Graph Design, By Stephen M. Kosslyn
Envisioning Information, By Edward R. Tufte
Excel 2007 Dashboards & Reports For Dummies, By Michael Alexander
Graph Design for the Eye and Mind, By Stephen M. Kosslyn
How Maps Work: Representation, Visualization, and Design, By Alan M. MacEachren
How to make an IMPACT, by Jon Moon
Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data, By Stephen Few
Information Graphics, By Taschen
Information is Beautiful, By David McCandless
Interactive Data Visualization for the Web, Scott Murray
Now You See It: Simple Visualization Techniques for Quantitative Analysis, By Stephen Few
Readings in Information Visualization: Using Vision to Think, By Stuart K. Card, Jock Mackinlay and Ben Shneiderman
Semiology of Graphics: Diagrams, Networks, Maps, By Jacques Bertin
Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten, By Stephen Few
The Craft of Information Visualization: Readings and Reflections, By Ben Shneiderman
The Elements of Graphing Data, By William S. Cleveland
The Functional Art, By Alberto Cairo
The Grammar of Graphics, By Leland Wilkinson
The Information Design Handbook, By Jennifer Visocky O’Grady
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, By Edward R. Tufte
The Visualisation of Spatial Social Structure, By Danny Dorling
The Wall Street Journal Guide to Information Graphics, By Dona M. Wong
Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information, By Manuel Lima
Visualize This: The FlowingData Guide to Design, Visualization, and Statistics, By Nathan Yau
Visualizing Data, By William S. Cleveland
Visualizing Data: Exploring and Explaining Data with the Processing Environment, By Ben Fry


That completes the seventh part of this collection of essential visualisation resources. You should also take a look at similar collections made by Enrico Bertini and Jorge Camoes. Please leave any comments or feedback any suggestions you have to add to this collection or to enhance the detail presented above.


StephaneOctober 13th, 2011 at 2:18 pm


you should take a look at the book ‘Brain Rules’ – John Medina – Very powerful stuff (it’s not directly related to datavisualization but there are a lot of stunning point in the book that are related to the Dviz scope)


Andy KirkOctober 13th, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Many thanks for the suggestion Stephane, it does ring a bell with me, must look into it.

Noah IliinskyOctober 14th, 2011 at 12:17 am

Hi Andy,

Two comments. First, I hope that our new book, Designing Data Visualizations will make the list. Your review copy should be showing up in your inbox in the next few days.

Second, I disagree with the inclusion of Universal Principles of Design. I *love* the concept of the book, but I find the quality is really inferior. The writing and examples are both poor, and they often don’t actually explain the principle. (If I had my copy in front of me, I’d give specific examples.) I found the book embarrassingly bad.

Best, Noah

Andy KOctober 14th, 2011 at 5:32 am

Thanks Noah. It will indeed feature, in fact on reflection I don’t think I’ll be breaking my rule by including it now… I’ll get that sorted. WRT ‘Universal Principles of Design’, I do take your point and have found it frustrating at points also, but equally it would be unfair of me not to acknowledge its use as a convenient/quick reference guide – the concept, as you note, just tips it for me.

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