The DataHero Blog

Why Color Matters In Data Visualisation

August 8th, 2013


I liken color to a super power. When wielded correctly, color can make your data stand out and shine. Used without consideration it can turn on you, making your data hard to understand and unseemly. Below is a simple example of the phenomena I call “color over-excitement”.


When viewing the chart, note what color your eye goes to first, second, third and so on. Chances are your attention ends up bouncing around the donut chart in a random order. This is because the colors are all equally bright, making it hard to decide at a glance what section of the chart to view first. One would think that using a large range of colors  would make it easy to view each segment. The reality is that choosing too many differing colors will only lead the eye in multiple directions making the information hard to read. The chart shown above has 8 very different colors. Compare that to the chart below, it has 4 different colors and 4 lighter versions of these colors. Keeping your color palette minimal is a simple way in which we can make sure that your charts are both nice to look at and easy to understand.


From this simple example you can see how easily color can derail your plans to convey your data on your chart. It is with special consideration that we choose color palettes that will look beautiful regardless of the ratio of color present in the chart. This means that no matter the placement and quantity of color present in the chart, the colors will be readable and aesthetically pleasing. Below is an example of two charts using the same color palette. Though they have the same colors, the varying ratio of colors makes it seem as if you are looking at two very different color combinations.


Not only does the second chart look like a rather ugly color combination but a few of the colors visually blur when combined, making it hard to distinguish the segments. The tricky part here is finding those few specific color combinations which will maintain legibility and a good cohesive look regardless of the varying amount of color used on the chart.

Finally, we look into the order in which the colors appear on your chart. Having a nice range of colors means being careful to place the right colors next to one another. This means that though you may have a the most beautiful soft pink and tan in your color palette, these two colors should probably never appear on your chart next to each other. Below are two charts, once again sharing the same color palette, the only difference between the two is the order in which they appear on the chart. Note how much harder it is to read and view the chart to the left versus the one to the right.



Keeping all of this in mind, we worked hard to create original color palettes that would make your charts stand out. Our first palette was based on the DataHero brand colors, with blues and oranges in retro hues that balance seriousness with enough bright pops to infuse dynamism into the chart.

Graphing Where Super Heroes Are Born


We then kept rolling with the theme of our namesake, as we sought to pay tribute to our favorite super heroes in our color combinations. For the first one, we drew inspiration from classic heroes such as Superman, Wonder Woman and Spider Man. Using their primary colors as a jumping point while fine tuning the colors so as to avoid “Color Over Excitement” was key to the success of the combination. The palette developed from this inspiration manages to be both playfully bright and yet still classic.

Graphing Where Super Heroes Are Born


Delving further, we realized that we couldn’t represent those main heroes without also paying homage to their trusty sidekicks. Thus the “Robin” Palette came to be, a combination of our favorite heroic partners’ iconic colors. It is an energetic and unique palette. On the other side of the spectrum lies “The Bat,” a grey scale palette that gives a nod to all things Noir, including the Dark Knight himself. Our “Who” palette takes inspiration from everyone’s favorite wandering time lord and all things steampunk in a well-balanced palette.


The “Turtle” palette was an especially hard one to work out, since the variety of green hues representing the heroes in a half shell were tricky to combine. The outcome, though, gives the user either an “eco friendly” vibe to their charts or a nice limited color palette for information that covers many similar ranges. Finally, we have Starfire and Jubilee: two collections that play off of the color palettes of female super heroes from the 80’s and the 90’s. Bright and incredibly dynamic, they are show-stopping combos that will give any chart intensity and attention.

DataHero is a cloud analytics tool that allows you to import your data directly from the cloud services you use every day, without building a custom integration. Create charts that give your presentation just the right amount of pop with color, in a drag-and-drop simple interface. DataHero’s mission is simple: to give everyone access to their data, not just the data scientists. Color in our stunning charts is just one way we do that.

DataHero helps you unmask the answers in your data. There’s nothing to download or install. Simply create an account and connect to the data services you use every day (like Salesforce, Stripe, MailChimp, and Google Drive). DataHero automatically decodes your data and shows you the answers you need through dynamic visualizations.

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By Gail Yui

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