The legibility described in Seeing Like a State, and imposed by Palmer Eldritch, is singular; It overrides our own experience, forcing us to live within the mind of its creator. The legibility described in Image of the City, and offered by Marco Polo, is faceted; it complements our own experience, allowing us to apply it where we see fit.

(Tellman n.d.)

Legibility is a Leaky abstraction.

As singular

[A legible thing is] arranged in a way that made it easy to monitor and control.


[Legibility is] something a state imposes on its people and resources. It is a coercive abstraction, not only treating different people, places, and ways of life as if they were the same, but creating an environment which encourages people to forget those differences ever existed.

(Tellman n.d.)

As faceted

In The Image of the City, Kevin Lynch defines “legibility” as something that a complex environment offers to its inhabitants, allowing them to easily navigate it. It is a clarifying abstraction, making the world more than an endless deluge of minute details.

(Tellman n.d.)



Tellman, Zach. n.d. “Two Concepts of Legibility.” Accessed November 11, 2022.