Layering and Separation

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In Chapter 3 Tufte discusses layering as a “polyphony of voices [that] weave together” to produce meaning (56). In this context, layering is the inclusion of multiple streams of data that work together to make meaning. Polyphony refers to the disparate nature of the data—each stream is saying something different than the others. Yet a good designer can take these separate meanings and combine them into a larger unified whole through effective layering. One important aspect of layering is separation, using graphical elements between layers of information so that the reader can understand each separate data set. Tufte encourages the designer to make good use of negative space instead of rushing to fill it with colors or patterns that jumble and confuse the data. Some examples of this would be using thick, harsh outlines around everything, filling open shapes with patterns, or using too many indistinguishable bright colors. Again, Tufte makes the point that less data ink results in an overall better design.

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Comments

Color

I like the definition you use, although the book does have some good examples of when color is employed to improve the information value of the graphic.

Agreed

I think you're right that layering and separation simplify complex data and make it more meaningful. Less is more for Tufte.