EdwardTufte / Tufte Clarifies the Ear

Tufte Clarifies the Ear

Original ear diagram
The original ear diagram

From Tufte’s Visual Explanations, pp. 74, the first diagram (above) is an example of a poor graphic. The single letter labels force the reader to scan the text for the name of each highlighted component. The lines connecting those letters to their respective portion of the ear are as dark and thick as any of the lines used in the ear diagram itself, thus overpowering the ear and cutting it into pieces. Also, these thick lines activate the negative space producing white slices surrounding the ear.

With a few tweaks, Tufte produces the second diagram (below). Gone is the indirect labeling, now the reader can instantly identify the ear’s components. The lines connecting the labels have become thinner and lighter. This reduces or eliminates the activation of negative space, and the lines now no longer overpower the ear diagram.

Tufte's ear diagram
The better ear diagram

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No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. To deny this, would be to affirm … that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.

Alexander Hamilton

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