Combining elements of science, art and philosophy, Edward Tufte has a gift for visually arranging information just so. Christopher Bonanos, author of an article on Tufte in the current issue of New York Magazine, "Minister of Information," says the data designer is on a mission to end "chart junk," any, really, extraneous piece of information in his visual data-pieces.
Read "Minster of Information" if you get the chance. Tufte if both artist, able to see more, and scientist, gifted at identifying what's already there. I doubt he'll be able to enumerate design's first principles - there's the philosophy angle I mentioned above - but Tufte's work just goes to show - ahem - that we often don't need more to explain more.