Edward Tufte is the world’s foremost expert on the visual display of quantitative information. He has invented the image quilt.
According to Tufte: “For now, the idea is to search a topic on Google Images, and then recompose, sort, and edit those images into a quilt of images dealing with your topic…The obvious extension is to be able to go into any large database, pull out the relevant images, and organize into a quilt…The resulting quilt is scanned by the viewer, who often learns more about the topic than from conventional search results[italics added].”
You can make your own image quilts using a free Google Chrome plugin Tufte created in collaboration with designer Adam Schwartz. The possible applications of the image quilt — especially in an educational or creative setting — are endless.
I produced “Perceptions” using 20 versions of the same photo I took of a Mormon barn in the Grand Tetons. One photo is original. The other 19 were modified in PaintShop Pro 6. Some 13 settings were changed randomly using Excel’s random number generator function. (I tweeted “Perceptions” and Tufte retweeted. Consequently I am getting a lot of views.)
Tufte says the image quilt is a variation of the small multiple. In his book Envisioning Information, Tufte explains: “At the heart of quantitative reasoning is a single question: Compared to what? Small multiple designs, multivariate and data bountiful, answer directly by visually enforcing comparisons of changes, of the differences among objects, of the scope of alternatives. For a wide range of problems in data presentation, small multiples are the best design solution.”
Here’s an image quilt resulting from a Google search for “Yellowstone.”
Below are examples of quilts from Tufte’s website. Pretty cool.