Use of Colors on Dashboard Charts and Graphs

Here is a very insightful article on the use of colors in Charts by Stephen Few. If you are a dashboard designer or developer then this is a must read. If your boss or manager for whom you develop dashbaords,reports or charts likes eye-candy stuff then please make him/her aware of the following rules.

Here is a quick summary of the rules that should be followed while designing and creating your dashboard

  • If you want different objects of the same color in a table or graph to look
    the same, make sure that the background—the color that surrounds
    them—is consistent.

    • avoid using gradients of color
      in the background or varying the background color in any other way.
  • If you want objects in a table or graph to be easily seen, use a background
    color that contrasts sufficiently with the object.

    • choose colors carefully, always making sure that they are easy to
      see and that they effectively serve the purpose for which we are using them.
    • Please avoid the use of pure primary colors, they are tough on the eyes. Use their lighter or darker shades
  • Use color only when needed to serve a particular communication goal.
    • Don’t use color to decorate the display.
      Dressing up a graph might serve a purpose in advertising, but it only distracts people from
      what’s important—the data—in an information display.
    • Eye-candy is OK for selling but not for consumption.
  • Use different colors only when they correspond to differences of meaning
    in the data.
  • Use soft, natural colors to display most information and bright and/or dark
    colors to highlight information that requires greater attention.
  • When using color to encode a sequential range of quantitative values,
    stick with a single hue (or a small set of closely related hues) and vary
    intensity from pale colors for low values to increasingly darker and brighter
    colors for high values.
  • Non-data components of tables and graphs should be displayed just
    visibly enough to perform their role, but no more so, for excessive salience
    could cause them to distract attention from the data.
  • To guarantee that most people who are colorblind can distinguish groups
    of data that are color coded, avoid using a combination of red and green in
    the same display.
  • Avoid using visual effects in graphs.

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