Layering and Separation

fig 1 – map of amsterdam places you can visit with a wheelchair

The travel graphic above is an excellent example of Tufte’s layering and separation theory. All of the separate layers of information are shown in order of importance. The first layer that the viewer sees is the most important layer, here it is the graphics of the buildings to visit. The second layer is the main streets, and their names which are included in a darker shade of green. These streets stand out more than the side streets, which are displayed in white on the layer below. This shows that the side streets on the map are the least important pieces of information. The usage of different colours to label the different streets is also a good example of Tuftes colour theory.

Overall, the audience are able to easily differentiate each layer on the map and understand the separate pieces of information. This simplified method of communicating information is a concept that Tufte advocated. He believed that ‘Confusion and clutter are the failures of design’ (Tufte, 1990).

fig 2 – Visiting Tokyo poster

Above is another example of a travel poster that aligns with Tufte’s layering and separation theory. The posters aim is to showcase Tokyos top tourist sites to the viewer. Through the careful use of layering and separation, the poster doesn’t look cluttered. The designer has meticulously arranged each section of the buildings and locations using varying levels of fade. The bold and colourful bullet train and old buildings are in the top layer whilst Mount Fuji is on the bottom layer, faded to the point where it almost blends into the sky.

Compared to the graphic in fig 1, I don’t think that this poster is necessarily trying to highlight the key pieces of information in order of importance. I feel that in this poster’s usage of distinct layering and separation is to ensure the amount of information being shown isn’t too complicated or overwhelming.

I also feel that this poster shows some of Tufte’s micro-macrocosm theory. Here, all the smaller graphics of the tourist sites combine together and almost create a big view of the whole of Tokyo.


(fig 1) Rasink, S (2015) Map of amsterdam for beleef magazine. Available online: [Accessed 26/10/2020].

Tufte, E. (1990) Envisioning information. Cheshire: Graphics Press USA.

(fig 2) Displate/Studio 324 (n.d.) Visiting tokyo [Poster]. Available online: [Accessed 26/10/2020].

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