Selecting Semantically-Resonant Colors for Data Visualization


We introduce an algorithm for automatic selection of semantically-resonant colors to represent data (e.g., using blue for data about “oceans”, or pink for “love”). Given a set of categorical values and a target color palette, our algorithm matches each data value with a unique color. Values are mapped to colors by collecting representative images, analyzing image color distributions to determine value-color affinity scores, and choosing an optimal assignment. Our affinity score balances the probability of a color with how well it discriminates among data values. A controlled study shows that expert-chosen semantically-resonant colors improve speed on chart reading tasks compared to a standard palette, and that our algorithm selects colors that lead to similar gains. A second study verifies that our algorithm effectively selects colors across a variety of data categories.

Lin, S.
Fortuna, J.
Kulkarni, C.
Stone, M.
Heer, J.
Publication Date: 
Monday, June 17, 2013
Publication Information: 
Computer Graphics Forum, 32: 401–410 (Proceedings of Eurovis, 2013).