Video Interview: JD Fekete talks about Jacques Bertin

by Enrico on November 29, 2010

in Interviews

As you might know Jacques Bertin, the great geographer who laid the foundations of information visualization, passed away few months ago.

During the last VisWeek Jean-Daniel Fekete gave a Salute to Jacques Bertin and I was totally amazed to know all these details about him: the impact he had on our field, the way he thought about visualization, the unexplored gems hidden in his Semiology of Graphics, etc.

Then, I met Jean-Daniel at the Dagstuhl seminar on Visual Analytics (from where I am writing this post) and I wanted to know more. He actually met Jacques Bertin few years ago and I really wanted to know more about him. Plus, I thought I could making a video interview out of it! And here it is.

Interview: Jean-Daniel Fekete talks about Jacques Bertin from FILWD on Vimeo.

And oh yes … if you don’t know Jean-Daniel yet, you’d better give a look to AVIZ, the research group he leads. They have lots of solid and cool stuff. Check it out!

Note: please forgive me, the video is totally unprofessional. The intro is too long, our faces are reddish, the sound is barely ok, and my english is sloppy (I was kind of nervous :-)), etc … but ok, the environment is nice and the content is great, be sure to check it out. Jean-Daniel reveals many interesting things.

(Many thanks to Florian for helping me and to Silvia and Carsten for being present (behind the curtains) and making the whole thing even funnier.)

I hope you’ll enjoy it. Let me know!

  • http://www.excelcharts.com/blog/ Jorge Camoes

    Enrico, thanks for posting this. We need more good sources about Jacques Bertin and his work. Alan M. MacEachren wrote in his book “How Maps Work” that things would be quite different in the data visualization field had “Semiology of Graphics” been translated a few years earlier.

    By the way, Amazon is accepting pre-orders for a new edition, by ESRI Press. I didn’t know that the English translation was so bad. Hope they are reviewing it.

    I have the French version (I can read French, fortunately) and I was planning to write more about Bertin in 2010, but I failed miserably. I’ll try again in 2011.

    “Semiology of Graphics” is not an easy book, and Bertin’s writing style doesn’t help. But if I had to choose a single data visualization book to take to a desert island, I would choose this one.

  • Enrico

    I am reading it in French too! I am so used to reading in English that it is kind of weird but pleasurable :-)

    Yeah, there is a whole wealth of information hidden in SOG and I am really eager to learn more out of it. I tried out to test it the way JD suggests in the video and it works!

    I plant to write more about Bertin, especially picking graphs nobody had ever seen. It’s stunning how many modern solutions were already in this book 40 years ago. I could find stuff like: parallel coordinates, spiral views, glyphs, etc.

  • http://www.excelcharts.com/blog/ Jorge Camoes

    How many of his charts can be done in Excel by a regular user? Almost none. Since 90% of all charts in a corporate environment are made in Excel, no wonder we have such a low graphical literacy.

    Try to imagine how the illustrations in the book would look like today, update the text and you get a very, very, modern book. We must sell Bertin to our American friends. Many of them never heard of him or don’t know how his role in the history of data visualization.

  • Enrico

    Agree … I am thinking about a series called “Random Bertin”: I open a page randomly post a picture and comment on it.

    Another thing I’d really love to do is to take some of the unexplored Bertin’s charts and reproduce them with modern interactive technologies. I already have in mind the first one.

    By the way, we can collaborate/cooperate on that. I am a big fan of Bertin. Any other ideas are welcome.

  • Pingback: The hidden legacy of Bertin and “The Semiology of Graphics” — Fell in Love with Data

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