Layering, Orientation Sensitivity, & Proximity: Talisa, Lauren, Katie, Anna, Eman


  • “The process of organizing information into related groupings in order to manage complexity and reinforce relationships in the information”
  • Two basic kinds of layering: two-dimensional and three-dimensional
  • Two-dimensional Layering: involves the division of information into layers so that only one layer can be seen at any one time; can be displayed in a linear or nonlinear manner
  • Linear models are useful for information that is organized with a clear beginning, middle, and end, much like a book
  • Nonlinear models are of greater use when reinforcing the relationships between the varying layers, such as hierarchal, parallel, or web
  • Hierarchal Layers: when information has superordinate (primary) and subordinate (secondary) relationships within itself; illustrated in an organizational chart/diagram
  • Parallel Layers: when information uses the organization of other information, like a thesaurus
  • Web Layers: when information has different kinds of relationships within itself, like hypertext
  • Three-dimensional Layering: the act of dividing information into layers so that multiple layers can be seen at any one time; are displayed as ‘opaque’ or ‘transparent’ planes of information that sit on top of each other
  • Opaque Layers: when supplementary information about a topic is required without switching contexts (such as software pop-ups)
  • Transparent Layers: when various overlays of information merge to highlight key concepts/relationships (such as weather maps)
  • Ultimately, two-dimensional layering is a method of understanding complex ideas and knowing how to navigate through any given amount of information; three-dimensional layering is a method of expanding on information and illustrating ideas without switching context

Nonlinear - Web Layering: Hypertext

Nonlinear - Opaque Layering: Software Pop-up Windows

Orientation Sensitivity

  • “A phenomenon of visual processing in which certain line orientation are more quickly and easily processed and discriminated than other line orientations”
  • A number of factors affect the efficiency with which people are able to perceive and judge the orientation of lines (for example, interpreting numbers on an analog clock is simple and quick because the lines are set at 30 degree increments – the recommended difference of line orientation for easy interpretation of information
  • The oblique effect and pop-out effect are both phenomena that are part of visual perception
  • Oblique Effect: perceiving and judging line orientation more accurately when it is more vertical or horizontal, rather than lines that are slanting (oblique); when judging line orientation as it is recalled from memory, most individuals are able to more accurately imitate the line if it is vertical or horizontal; as well, vertical/horizontal elements in design are considered to be more aesthetically pleasing; this effect is caused by a greater sensitivity of neutrons to vertical and horizontal stimuli than to oblique stimuli
  • Pop-out Effect: easily and quickly identifying certain elements because of their tendency to “pop-out” as primary elements; for example, when a person is required to identify a specific line within a whole set of lines of common orientation, that target line becomes evident only when it is set at a 30 degree difference (or more); the effect is strongest in coalition with the oblique effect – it is easier  to identify differences in line orientation when put against a background of vertical/horizontal lines than it is when put against a background of oblique lines

An image used in a study of child education based on the judgment of line orientation (A.L. Benton)


  • “Elements that are close together are perceived to be more related than elements that are farther apart.”
  • This principle is one of several that are referred to as Gestalt Principle of Perception
  • States that elements placed at a closer distance are recognized as a single group/chunk and are generally thought to be more related than elements placed farther apart
  • Grouping, the direct result of proximity, reduces the intricacy of a design and strengthens the relationship between the elements
  • Some proximal layouts should be considered in layout design because they suggest different kinds of relationships (for example, overlapping/connecting elements indicates that they have similar attributes, while elements in close proximity that do not connect imply that they are related, but independent) – think of a Venn Diagram, for instance
  • Proximity is one of the most powerful methods of illustrating a relationship between elements in a design; generally, it will overwhelm competing visual cues

Works Cited for Images

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