Posts Tagged ‘color’

Color Oracle Review + The Economist’s Red-Green Fixation

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Hisham Abboud over at the Curious Chap blog promo’d Color Oracle, the software that the talented Bernhard Jenny programmed (with my sometimes helpful nagging) for simulating color blindness.

No self-respecting programmer, UX practitioner, or web site designer should be without [Color Oracle]

Nice endorsement, thanks! Hisham uses an Apple iPhone website chart to emphasize his point: “My first brush with what one can do for color blind persons was a 2007 post by Greg Raiz. Greg described how Apple was using red and green circles (same shape) to illustrate which stores had iPhone availability, and how they later switched to using different shapes”:

redgreen

By using shape to reinforce (overload) the color difference, green and red can still be used to take advantage of those hue’s strong cultural significance (green = go, red = stop). The Economist, on the other hand, persists in NOT using shape to amplify the color differences in their charts and maps. Not only does this make it hard to read on my evening subway commute, they are completely illegible for color blind readers. The January 16th, 2010 edition has a particularly egregious example:

cfn742

Figure-Ground in an Age of Set Color Palettes

Friday, July 24th, 2009

cir904

[Editor's note: This map from the Economist suffers from stiff adherence to a limited color palette. Not only are red and green, the two primary colors used, hard to distinguish (1, 2, 3) for 8% of men (use Color Oracle to test), but it's just hard to focus on what the topic of the map is. Because of it's complexity (there are 3 different legends, with a total of 9 basic map classes), this map tips towards being a reference map rather than an explainer map (which usually just focuses on a max of 3 top-level classes). When I say "figure" here, I mean "what is the focus of the graphic". By "ground" I mean the background, supporting elements (5+ here) that help locate and provide context for the figure.

The graphic treatments on the green-tinted land, blue-tinted water, Arctic circle, solid country lines in brown, dashed province lines in brown, and a white water vignette compete directly with the figure instead of supporting it. While this basic color palette works for simple locators, an explainer graphic like this suffers from strict adherence.

A possible redesign might include using white water fill instead of blue (and thus avoid the water vignette, necessitated by the small 7% difference in HSV value  between the green and blue right next to each other), a creme-beige instead of green for the land, grey lines for the country and provinces, and different hues entirely for the Inuit and Sami areas but that share the same saturation and value (one is dull now, the other bright). The dots and dashes that distinguish the ice extents  is done well, but the lines should offset from each other in the Greenland Sea.

The key objective: if it's important enough to put on the map and feature in the figure (to include it in the legend), make it clearly legible.]

Republished from the Economist.
Jul 16th 2009 | NUUK, GREENLAND

The rights of Arctic peoples: Not a barren country
More political powers for the indigenous people of the Arctic could soon be matched by more economic clout

THE crowds in Nuuk, Greenland’s pretty coastal capital, marked the devolution of more powers from Denmark, on midsummer’s day, with cheers, processions and flags. The town thronged with men in white anoraks and women in kalaallisuut, an outfit of sealskin boots and trousers set off with a beaded top. Even a dusting of summer snow failed to chill the mood.

The newly elected prime minister of Greenland, Kuupik Kleist, who represents an Inuit-dominated party, promised that his country would act as an “equal partner” with Denmark, the old colonial power. The Danish prime minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, responded with a pledge that Greenland could claim full independence whenever it chooses. A more cordial separation is hard to imagine.

Continue reading at the Economist . . .

Disappearing Birds (Wash Post)

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

[Editor's note: "Habitat loss has sent many bird species into decline across the United States." This chart  shows the percent change in bird population since 1968, by habitat. I like three things about this chart: (1) it uses direct labeling on the green and red lines thus making it easy to understand for all and allowing color blind viewers access to the encoded information (see post) and (2) the chart segments out important thematic subtrends in the dataset. Also (3) I worked on a bird migration supplement (wall) map for National Geographic in 2004 and Cornell Lab of Ornithology has some of the coolest time-based mapping techniques around. See original artwork from the North America side of the supplement now thru May at NG Explorers Hall in DC.]

Republished from The Washington Post.
Graphic by Patterson Clark.  March 20, 2009.
SOURCE: www.stateofthebirds.org.

Related story by Juliet Eilperin.

Major Decline Found In Some Bird Groups
But Conservation Has Helped Others

Several major bird populations have plummeted over the past four decades across the United States as development transformed the nation’s landscape, according to a comprehensive survey released yesterday by the Interior Department and outside experts, but conservation efforts have staved off potential extinctions of others.

“The State of the Birds” report, a broad analysis of data compiled from scientific and citizen surveys over 40 years, shows that some species have made significant gains even as others have suffered. Hunted waterfowl and iconic species such as the bald eagle have expanded in number, the report said, while populations of birds along the nation’s coasts and in its arid areas and grasslands have declined sharply.

From the report: “Reveals troubling declines of bird populations during the past 40 years—a warning signal of the failing health of our ecosystems. At the same time, we see heartening evidence that strategic land management and conservation action can reverse declines of birds. This report calls attention to the collective efforts needed to protect nature’s resources for the benefit of people and wildlife.”

Continue reading at The Washington Post . . .

Is Color Always Better? Maybe Not (Kelso)

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

[Editor's note: This beautiful example of strong graphic story telling printed grayscale in The Washington Post on January 12, 2009. The strong contrasts in tones of black ink were very successful. Sometimes we rush to colorize graphics unnecessarily. Just because we can, doesn't mean we must. This is a follow-up to my earlier post last year. I quote from there:

"Color graphics can fall into the trap of treating every category as equal. Doing so can create graphics without any focus or visual contrast. Often one category is more important than the other. Or colors used to symbolize nominal or ratio choropleth categories are so close together they are indistinguishable and create little or no visual appeal. There are also legibility problems associated with impaired color vision."

In the color version (below) that was converted for the web, color-blind compatible blue, orange, and red hues, but I think this and many other grayscale graphics that already exhibit strong figure-ground contrast could stay grayscale when posted on the web.]

Republished from The Washington Post Monday January 12, 2009 (A01).

Bush Econ: A Legacy of Little Growth (view original).

How growth in jobs, in gross domestic product and in disposable income have fared during the Bush administration and those of his 10 most recent predecessors.

By Brenna Maloney and Todd Lindeman – The Washington Post – January 12, 2009

Color version:

Related article: By Neil Irwin and Dan Eggen
Economy Made Few Gains in Bush Years, Eight-Year Period Is Weakest in Decades

President Bush has presided over the weakest eight-year span for the U.S. economy in decades, according to an analysis of key data, and economists across the ideological spectrum increasingly view his two terms as a time of little progress on the nation’s thorniest fiscal challenges.

The number of jobs in the nation increased by about 2 percent during Bush’s tenure, the most tepid growth over any eight-year span since data collection began seven decades ago. Gross domestic product, a broad measure of economic output, grew at the slowest pace for a period of that length since the Truman administration. And Americans’ incomes grew more slowly than in any presidency since the 1960s, other than that of Bush’s father.

Bush and his aides are quick to point out that they oversaw 52 straight months of job growth in the middle of this decade, and that the economy expanded at a steady clip from 2003 to 2007. But economists, including some former advisers to Bush, say it increasingly looks as if the nation’s economic expansion was driven to a large degree by the interrelated booms in the housing market, consumer spending and financial markets. Those booms, which the Bush administration encouraged with the idea of an “ownership society,” have proved unsustainable.

“The expansion was a continuation of the way the U.S. has grown for too long, which was a consumer-led expansion that was heavily concentrated in housing,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a onetime Bush White House staffer and one of Sen. John McCain‘s top economic advisers for his presidential campaign. “There was very little of the kind of saving and export-led growth that would be more sustainable.”

“For a group that claims it wants to be judged by history, there is no evidence on the economic policy front that that was the view,” Holtz-Eakin said. “It was all Band-Aids.”

Continue reading at The Washington Post . . .

Color Expert for the iPhone (Code-Line)

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

[Editor's note: I helped Matheau at Code Line beta test his Color Expert app for the iPhone and I'm pleased to see it's getting good press (over at MacFormat it is the iPhone app of the month for Dec 2008). Think of Color Expert as Adobe kuler for the iPhone but with the mobile ability to start color color schemes based on the world arround you. Point the iPhone's camera, tap the image, and walla! A whole new custom color wheel scheme, which can be emailed back to your computer in swatch file format directly importable into Adobe desktop apps. Or shared and modifed with your client at a job site. Color Expert still needs better support for CMYK and ability to snap to RGB and CMYK color library, not just Pantone. And I really like Mordy's idea about shaking Color Expert to come up with new color schemes ;) But the app works well and unlike any other tool for the iPhone and at the introductory price of $9.99 is a steal. And the 1.1 update addressing some of my gripes will of course be free.]

Republished from Code-Line.com.

Also see Mordy Golding’s review and other apps listed in Designer Work Plan’s must have 20 iPhone apps for designers.

Color Expert contains powerful tools to help artists and designers identify, translate, capture and showcase color.

Designers know inspiration can come anywhere at anytime. Just look around. Some of the best ideas are waiting for you in the real world away from the studio. Now with Color Expert, you’ll have the tools to capture the moment, the moment a color captures you.

DESIGN WHILE IT’S FRESH

Look down. See the color of that Pomegranate in your cart? Go get it. It’d be perfect for the project you’ve been working on. Whip out Color Expert and it tells you that shade is PANTONE® solid coated PANTONE 220 C. The interactive color wheel then finds the perfect color schemes and palettes to match. Now, email that color scheme to your friends or clients. But, you might not want to tell them you’re still in the check-out line.

Whether designing, decorating or accessorizing, Color Expert is indispensable for anyone working with color. Anywhere. Anytime.

Click here for more information in iTunes. $9.99 for now.

Color Expert’s exclusive “snap & tap” technology. Just snap a photo and let your finger select that perfect color. From your eyes to the screen. Powerful, interactive color wheel with multiple color schemes including Monochromatic, Analogous, Complementary, Split Complementary and Triadic.

Quickly search through PANTONE® solid coated, PANTONE® solid uncoated, PANTONE® Goe™ coated, PANTONE® Goe™ uncoated, Web Safe Colors, HTML Colors.

Email your palette ideas to friends, colleagues and clients. Color Expert provides a rich, HTML based email you can send from your iPhone or iPod touch.

Jean Sequins (John Grunwell)

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

I had the pleasure of re-meeting John Grunwell this weekend and browsing his artwork at DC’s Artomatic, which closes today. His business card features this painting titled Jean Sequins. Which puts me in mind of time sequences (example) that punctuate the timeline with tinted bars indicating activity in that time-slice. The artwork was inspired by a friend of John’s who had described his work with gene sequencing. 

jean sequins

Follow the Rainbow: 101 Color Resources for Web Designers

Monday, May 12th, 2008

whdb logoJimmy Atkinson, editor of WHDb (Web Hosting Database) shared a new post with me last week. It’s titled “Follow the Rainbow: 101 Color Resources for Web Designers“. Of course Color Oracle is listed under the Color Blindness section :)

(Reprinted from Jimmy’s post) 

Do you freak out if someone asks you to match print colors to Web colors? Or, maybe you just can’t decide whether the orange would work better with the blue or the green. Either way, many designers may not realize how easy it is to choose a palette for that new Web design. Additionally, many designers might be surprised to learn that they can stay on top of color trends with a few visits to fashion design Web sites.

All those tips and more are listed below in this list of 101 color resources for Web designers. The categories are listed alphabetically as are all the links contained within each category. Although the sites are numbered, this does not mean that one site is better than others. Visit them all and bookmark the ones that will help you become the most color-savvy Web designer around.

Continue reading . . . 

Is Color Always Better?

Monday, January 7th, 2008

pak ethnic breakdown legendIn my final year of university I started clipping maps from the San Francisco Chronicle. I was fascinated with how these mostly black-and-white graphics used effective figure-ground contrast “against the rules” to focus reader attention on the most important content. The darkest element on the map was often not the most important.

Instead, these maps “highlight” important content by “shading” the focus country white. Surrounding countries were light gray and water a darker gray. The only pure “black” elements in these graphics were nouns: the text labeling feature names. By virtue of being white, the focus country allowed for black labels placed within to “pop”.

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