Use of Colour


fig 1 – The London Underground tube map

An excellent example of a travel graphic that aligns with Edward Tufte’s label colour theory is the map of the London Underground. It was designed by Harry Beck in 1933 and uses colour to efficiently label information. Each tube line is colour coded, enabling the viewer to easily tell each one apart. This use of colour has been a vital part of why this design has been so successful and used for almost a century. Without this use of colour, the audience wouldn’t be able to distinguish between the different tube lines.

The use of the strong colours on a plain, neutral background are also advocated by Tufte. This high contrast helps the audience draw attention to most important features of the design. Too much colour would be visually confusing for the viewer and obscure the data that the map is attempting to communicate. 

The London Underground map is also a great example of a travel graphic which follows Tufte’s layering and separation principle. The information that is being presented to the audience is separated into various distinct layers, in order of importance. The main tube line part is the first thing the audience sees, but underneath this main layer there is also background layers which are presented in much lighter colours showing other information such as the travel fare zones and what side of the river the stations are on. By separating all of these layers, the information isn’t overwhelming but the audience is still able to see all of the necessary information.

fig 2 – Map of Norway

Above is a map of Norway, which was designed by Bek Cruddace for a travel article. It’s a good example of how colour is used to label information. The audience is able to easily understand that the blue area of the map is the sea and the green is the land. This is because these colours are so often found in nature that the audience is able to immediately associate them with the information conveyed on the map. 


(fig 1) Transport for London (2020) Tube map. Available online: [Accessed 06/10/20].

Darien Graham-Smith (2018) The history of the tube map. Available online: [Accessed 06/10/20].

(fig 2) Cruddace, B. (2018) Guardian travel road trip map. Available online: [Accessed 06/10/20].

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