Earlier this week I attended a workshop conducted by Edward Tufte, the Yale professor emeritus and information design lecturer.

During the day-long course, he emphasized the need for high-resolution, information-dense graphics and gave several examples of his concept.

Among them was a discussion about the iPhone interface.

He argued the iPhone hardware presented the perfect platform to deliver lots of detail in a small space and the widgets, particularly the stock and weather widgets, were cartoonish and a wasted opportunity.

Something about this assessment felt wrong.

When putting together a news story for the Web, people often bring up the architecture maxim: Form follows function. If the story is best told through images, should they be still or moving? If the story will be enhanced by sound, should you use a narrator or let the subject speak for themselves throughout? Should text be on an article page, a blog post or in a Flash presentation?

And most importantly, what will best serve the reader?

In the case of the iPhone, most users are glancers and scanners who need the basic information upfront while moving and a way to dive into things when they’re at rest. Goofy as the widgets may look, they do serve these purposes.

Christopher Fahey of graphpaper.com makes a more elegant rebuttal, saying Tufte misses this critical point:

“You are neglecting the fact that iPhones are *mobile phones*, designed to be used primarily by people on the go, or by people who are otherwise occupied. …Typical iPhone usage lends itself well to the information-thin designs you criticize precisely because it does not attempt to do more than deliver the most important information in a heartbeat.

Many others agreed with Fahey, even while defending Tufte. What’s your take?