Expert Color Choices for Presenting Data Maureen Stone, StoneSoup Consulting The problem of choosing colors for data visualization is expressed by this quote from information visualization guru Edward Tufte: “… avoiding catastrophe becomes the first principle in bringing color to information: Above all, do no harm.. Given an organized set of data elements, and a clear understanding of their function and importance, how does one go about choosing an effective set of colors To answer this question, we will first look at some basic principles of color design, then the problem of legibility, and conclude with some guidelines for picking colors based on these principles Principles of Color Design Contrast and analogy are the principles that define color design.. Variation in luminance can also used to separate overlaid values into layers, where low contrast layers can sit behind high contrast ones without causing visual clutter (like the grid lines in Figure 1).. (Larry Arend, NASA) The importance of value contrast is why a primary rule in many forms of design is “get it right in black and white.” In an ideal design, all important information would be legible even if chroma were reduced to zero everywhere in the presentation, leaving only shades of gray.. link to the sidebar below entitled “A few words on background color” Acknowledgements All of the data plotting examples (Figures 1, 9-13) were created with the award winning Tableau data analysis software (www.tableausoftware.com)..
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