White House taps the Da Vinci of data

President Barack Obama has appointed visual data guru Edward Tufte (previously mentioned: here) to the Recovery Independent Advisory Panel. Tufte will advise on such things as the Recovery.gov website, where citizens can punch their zip code into a track-the-money map and see all the recovery projects in their area.

Bob Garfield of New York public radio’s On The Media interviewed Tufte about the appointment this week (audio embedded below; transcript here).

GARFIELD: Tufte has inspired a generation of innovators with his ideas for the efficient, clean and rich presentation of information. He’s a fan of The New York Times website, the iPhone, and, most of all, the lowly sports page, with its tables and stats a reader can grasp in an instant. But he’s in a constant war with the average website, cluttered with scroll bars, logos, jargon and meaningless graphics.

EDWARD TUFTE: They make the simple complex. The design hand in there is from the marketing department, and it’s unfortunate because our eye-brain system is so powerful, in one long glance, maybe a 12-second glance at something, probably 120 megabits of information goes to our brain. And there’s no reason we have to be looking at impoverished materials because we process material at enormous rates.

Tufte’s first piece of advice to government: its websites should imitate the best news organization sites.

Hat tip: FlowingData.