What's the deal with colour?

by Tom Pilgrem

Getting the most from colour

In my last post, I briefly mentioned about how the use of minimal colour in a simplistic viz can get the most from your data. Let’s have a look in a little more detail about using colour in Tableau.

A colourful week at the Data School

We had Caroline Beavon come and talk to us this week about dashboard design. It was a great day and lots was learnt about design, including the use of colour. Read all about it here on Gauthier’s blog. In other colour news, Robin has shared how to design custom colour palettes. Meanwhile, in his first, ‘just the tips’ post, Ollie explains how to double up on colour.

Do you need colour?

An important concept that we gathered from Caroline’s class was simply the question, ‘does it need colour?’ If you have to think about it then I can tell you that the answer is probably no! Think about designing your dashboards in black and white, old school I know, then adding in colour once it is complete. As I explained last week, using a grey colour scheme, with a single bolt of a bright, vivid colour can draw maximum power to your viz. You want people to see what you are seeing in the story, so use colour to highlight those points.

What about colour blindness?

Colour blindness is more common than you may think, especially so in men. 1 in 12 males are affected by it, including myself. When designing dashboards, think about how much you are relying on colour to tell your story. Turn the viz black and white and ask yourself ‘does this still make sense?’ This is not just to help colour blind folk, but to help your own viz. What about using shapes? If the chart can be read in black and white, then think how powerful the story will be conveyed when you add those bright sparks of colour.

If you are using lots of colour (it happens) then it may be a good idea to check out how your viz looks to somebody with colour blindness. A helpful add-in can be downloaded from Color Oracle. This is a really helpful app which turns your screen into the eyes of someone with one of the three main types of colour blindness. It is an eye-opening experience and I advise you to check it out.

Some handy website links

And finally, here’s some handy website links that I’ll give you, thanks to Luke Stoughton for showing us.

Tabpal – Seen an image you like the look of? Or do you have a sports or corporate logo which you want to use the colours of? Simply copy and paste the image link into this site and you’ll get a custom colour palette to use in Tableau!

Coolors – Much along the same lines as before, but with a little more functionality. What you can do here which I think is really cool, is to lock in any number of colours you like, and it will give you complementary colour to make up the rest of the palette. Really handy if you have a company colour or an image in your viz that you want to make the highlight colour in the chart, but your not sure which other colours to match it with.

A final video

Thanks to Luke Stoughton again for sharing with us this amazing video about how the eye can create colour out of a black and white image. I don’t want to give you any more spoilers – just go and give it a watch, you won’t be disappointed!

Hope you enjoyed the post, feel free to reach out on the usual channels. Twitter & Linkedin