fig 1 – London the big smoke

Tufte’s theory of micro-macrocosm is where smaller (micro) details come together to create a bigger (macro) meaning. I feel that this concept links well to travelling as visiting small parts of this big planet can help to create meaning in a person’s life, as St Augustine once said ‘The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.’

The above graphic showing places to visit in London is a good example of Tufte’s micro-macrocosm theory. Micro-macrocosm also includes elements from Tufte’s other concepts, which my chosen graphic also demonstrates.

Upon first examination, you can see the basic outline of central London with the River Thames running through the middle. Some individual graphics of famous London icons are layered over this, showing where they are located. This is a good example of the layering and separation theory. Here, the different layers are presented in a distinctive way and the viewer can comprehend all of the required information in a concise way, which is something Tufte advocated.

A closer inspection of these graphics then reveal the smaller details, which include various borough outlines, place names and numbered labels linked to a list of nine things to do in London. These different areas are all divided up in a similar size and format on the map, which is a great example of Tufte’s small multiples theory as it is displaying these small multiples in a way that doesn’t confuse the audience. These aspects of the graphic also demonstrate the use of colour to label information. Colour isn’t just an aesthetic choice, it is used to identify key parts of the map like land, area boundaries and water.

The individual aspects wouldn’t makes sense in isolation, but when combined together, they show the whole picture to the audience which is the map of London. In doing so, they create another layer of meaning in presenting the audience with a mostly visual way of presenting viewers with places to visit in London.


(fig 1) Gosling, L (n.d.) London map print [Poster]. Available online: https://www.mapsystudio.com/products/livi-gosling/london-map-print [Accessed 06/11/2020].

St. Augustine (n.d.) Augustine of Hippo quotes. Available online: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/6193-the-world-is-a-book-and-those-who-do-not [Accessed 06/11/2020].

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