Posts Tagged ‘red green’

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”:


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:


Figure-Ground in an Age of Set Color Palettes

Friday, July 24th, 2009


[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 . . .

Red-Green Color Vision Impairment

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

the economist logoAn article I was reading in this week’s Economist magazine reminded me of Color Oracle, the software Bernhard Jenny (Swiss Institute of Cartography, ETH Zurich) developed to silence my continual prodding after listening to Cynthia Brewer talk about color blindness (color vision impairment) at a NACIS conference in 2000 (?!). It struck me there should be a tool that actually allowed the designer to see what their design looked like to someone with this impairment and not just try to make something work using limited “blessed” color combinations. An earlier effort produced Sim Daltonism, a Mac only tool that does a similar job as Color Oracle.

Color Oracle takes the guesswork out of designing for color blindness by showing you in real time what people with common color vision impairments will see. Color Oracle applies a full screen color filter to art you are designing – independently of the software that you are using. Eight percent of all males are affected by color vision impairment and it’s good to make sure that your graphical work is readable by the widest possible audience. This software is free and works on Mac, Windows, and even Linux. Get it here.

Back to the Economist graphic on real prefectural spending per person in Japan This graphic uses a divergent color scheme that is convenient for most readers, but hard to read for others. The strong hue contrast between the red and green segments of the legend’s color ramp becomes hard to distinguish for people with color vision impairment (see 2nd image past the jump for simulated view using Color Oracle).

economist japan graphic normal