Selecting Semantically‐Resonant Colors for Data Visualization

Abstract 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.


@inproceedings{lin2013selecting, title={Selecting Semantically-Resonant Colors for Data Visualization}, author={Lin, Sharon and Fortuna, Julie and Kulkarni, Chinmay and Stone, Maureen and Heer, Jeffrey}, booktitle={Computer Graphics Forum}, volume={32}, number={3pt4}, pages={401--410}, year={2013}, organization={Wiley Online Library} }