Elena Sonnenfeld

The reading Subtleties of Color, Robert Simmon very clearly talks about the different ways in which color can be perceived and how it effects the way in which viewers interpret data. Humans view color in three different parts, hue, saturation, and lightness. Color has the ability to enhance  data and draw the viewer in. It allows a simple visual to a possibly more complex story. By using color associations, a graph is able to build on what people already know and feel about a topic and emphasize it. For example, if a person was presented a graph about the ice caps melting and the colors used were blue and red, the person would automatically interpret that the red is indicative of heat and is a threat. If the graph was in black and white, it might not be as effective in conveying the emotion and the story. Simmon brings up three different types of data and makes the point that different data needs to have different color treatments in order for the data to make the most sense. The three types of data that he mentions are sequential data, divergent data, and qualitative data. Sequential data is best suited with light to dark color palettes. Divergent data has a breaking point in the middle which should be a neutral color and the two sides of the point should be contrasting. Lastly, qualitative data divides data into categories and these categories should use color to distinctly differentiate. One example that I found really helpful with this reading was in section four when the author starts to describe how he used different aspects of color to treat a heat map of the world. By using colors that varied in hue and saturation, he was able to create an almost three dimensional plane that showed the difference in heat. It allowed some of the data to recede and other parts of the data to stand out. This contrast was very helpful when trying to decipher what the graph was about. Color is very important when applied to data and has the ability to either enhance it and create a strong graphic or hinder it and take away from the data. It is important to know how to use color correctly so one’s work can be taken to the next level.

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