Would Tufte Like Matplotlib?

11:20am - 11:50am on Friday, October 6

Cameron Riddell



Edward Tufte is a world renowned professor best known for pioneering the field of data visualization. He thought deeply about how information is communicated through visualizations and was one of the first to formalize this knowledge. Notably, he introduced the concepts of chartjunk, lie factor, data-ink ratio, and data density and many others which are all widely discussed in the data visualizations today. While Tufte’s work continues to shape the growing field of data visualization, many of the concepts he conveys originate from hand-drawn graphs.

Modern graphs are now computer generated, and with this in mind I seek to answer the question “Would Tufte Like Matplotlib?” Since its first v1.0 release in 2010, matplotlib is the oldest Python-based plotting library still widely used today. In more recent years, numerous other Python plotting libraries have been created- plotly, bokeh, plotnine, seaborn, which all have their own niches and usecases. Instead of directly comparing matplotlib to its competitors, I will demonstrate the incredible flexibility that matplotlib offers and how users can avoid confusion when approaching the tool.

Specifically, I will discuss what matplotlib does best- the programmatic construction of graphs as part of an ongoing workflow.

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