…Your ransom-note-like use of multiple fonts and sizes on each slide led us, the viewers, to identify not with the content but with the feeling of being trapped and held hostage, our freedom being contingent on our ability to appear to understand your many indecipherable charts and graphs. With this quick nod to Stockholm syndrome, we began to feel for you as our captor and, eventually, as our fellow prisoner.
Another highlight was your complete rejection of Tuftean convention through the use of colors without meaning, location without purpose, and position without movement. How daring it was to represent the quarterly shortfalls in revenue with the color purple—the color associated not only with kings but also with the skin of slaves, an obvious yet powerful homage to Alice Walker’s seminal novel. By rejecting the fixed ironic conventions of green and black (colors of mold, death, and despair) for profits and red (blood and lust) for losses, you transcended the common criticism that capitalism is animalistic and decadent. The postmodern color scheme instead offered a fascinating contradiction, one that simultaneously said, “I am master of my destiny,” and “I am trapped by the projections required as a condition of my employment, and am but a slave to outcomes that are way beyond my control,” and “Feel free to have more cinnamon buns, for I seem to have ordered too many.” Your despair, transparent as it was, brilliantly led us to share your pain, as the mumbled delivery forced us to lean forward and listen with extra focus, sharpening the impact of your dismal forecast for your sector and, by extension, our lives.
An excerpt from McSweeney’s, a sometimes satirical literary journal I follow. One of the most amusing things about this essay, to me, is that the author’s use of the adjective “Tuftean”, indicating that he either knows something about data visualization or did good research, uncovering the godfather of modern data visualization.