Get my new weekly sketch in your inbox

Join over 30,000 people learning something new in a moment each Sunday.

The data prison

The Data Prison illustration: shows 2 tables with identical data describing a schedule of work and fun for every day of the week. The "imprisoned" data in the table on the left is separated by lines in a grid. The "freed" data in the table on the right has no lines, and instead uses shading and spacing.

The default table crowds out your data with non-data-ink and locks your data into cells. When data is locked into cells their relationships with other data is harder to see and the reader has to work harder to learn from your table.

When making a table of data consider if, by adjusting spacing and alignment, you can make the columns or rows clear enough as they are without the prison bars. And look for opportunities to remove the visual noise to let your data and the relationships between them shine out.

The data prison is a concept from Edward Tufte. Check out the beautiful Envisioning Information, for more.

More Tufte sketchplanations:


You’re welcome to use and share this image and text for non-commercial purposes with attribution. Go wild!
See licence

Buy Me A Coffee