Layering and Separation

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.


To combine a couple sentences on page 60, I would define layering as:
usually achieved by a hierarchy of visual effects, enhances representation of both data dimensionality and density on flatland

In Tufte's examples, layering is usually portrayed through the use of color to distinguish different aspects of the graphic such as with the industrial diagram..

Layering and Separation

Tufte describes the effectiveness of layering and separation. With designers using different elements such as colors, lines, and symbols it helps enhance what needs to be drawn out and what doesn't. On page 56 Tufte includes a map in his reading. The map in the picture is not overwhelming or creating to much noise (which is something Tufte emphasis while describing the rules and effectiveness in layering and separation. Things such as included road maps had to be clear, simple, and concise because that was how a person got from point A to point B.

Layering and Separation

Ultimately, layering and separation, when used in the right circumstances, create an effective design. Layering and separation help minimize and eliminate messy and undecipherable information. Layering especially helps reduce clutter and improves data visually. On page 60, Tufte says that the "layering of data, often achieved by felicitous subtraction of weight, enhances representation of both data dimensionality and density on flatland." So by layering, one can reduce the amount of "weight" and that makes the data visually appealing and easier to read.

Layering and Separation

I think the layering part of the chapter is very well represented by the chart on p. 55 with the different color separating the different train routes. I also like the map on a later page as an example because it brought to mind the map books that I used to see in my parents' car before GPS devices and smart phones made navigation almost effortless. I think the author was trying to bring attention to the fact that information designers consciously decide to make certain things about maps, charts, graphs, infographics, etc.

Tufte Chapter 3 Response Layering and Separation

On page 53 Tufte introduces the topic saying that to avoid confusion and clutter separation and layering reduce noise and enriche content of displays. These design devices are used to distinguish various aspects of the data so that they don't become noise and clutter.

"Layering of data, often achieved by felicitous subtraction of weight, enhances representation of both data dimensionality and density on flatland."

Tufte shoes that signal to noise ratio is critical to reduce viewer fatigue(pg 62) and improve accuracy of readings.

Layering and Separation

I think layering and separation basically comes down to the idea of avoiding clutter. You have to be able to combine a variety of elements into one finished product. However, the trick is that the audience has to be able to comprehend it and it must reveal the point you want to get across. Tufte gives an example through the 1+1=3 principle. Once two black lines are drawn, a third line or white path is created. Normally this type of thing is not wanted. This is a simple example, but it applies to information design as a whole.

Tufte Ch. 3 Reading Response

What Tufte seems to be getting at with layering and separation is that the space between objects by their creation, and the space taken up by the objects created has a heavy impact on information graphics. Using bold, thick lines, clunks things up by leaving less separation and makes things harder to scan through effectively. The concept that Tufte kept coming back to was Albers' "1+1= 3" concept. This concept explained that "one line plus one line results in many meanings" and that it's all about how the images are arranged that brings out the meaning within them (pg. 61).

Tufte - Layering and Separation

Proportion, transparency, coherence, order, tranquility....these are the results of data that is properly layered and separated. An information graphic with layering and separation affords greater visual interpretation. The independent elements become more organized and discernible. The relationships between data points are more clearly defined. Chaos disappears. Tufte is essentially saying that layering and separation produces simplicity of form and shape and visually appealing data. He writes about the removal of "clutter" and "noise reduction" (Tufte 62).

Layering and Separation

The phrase "layering and separation" is applicable to images specifically, because the colors of images need to be layered and separated in order for the image or design to be effective. In the example of the images of the figure doing the marshalling signals, the lights are bright orange, whereas the person is gray, which creates two different layers, helping the lights to stand out from the man. The color distinction also separates the man from the lights, as well.