Coloring Xcelsius Dashboards Charts and Maps

By Gabriel Braun

Must have resources for Xcelsius color themes…

Xcelsius Coloring CrayonsThis post  continues the discussion of choosing a color palette for your Xcelsius Dashboard started by Josh Tarpley (Data Ink) in his recent post Dashboard Color Selection.

When it comes to choosing colors for maps and charts I do not lean on my personal taste or the default color palettes of Xcelsius or Excel. I lean on well researched understandings and tools crafted by others that have looked deeply into the art and science of color as it relates to data.

Here are the resources I turn to for Xcelsius Dashboard color guidance:

Practical Rules for Using Color in Charts, Stephen Few

Stephen-Few is by far the lending expert in visualizing data. This resource is a must have those of you who don’t already own his book Information Dashboard Design. The nine rules presented here should become a part of your dashboard chart design constitution.

I do have a bone of contention with Mr. Few. I believe he gives too little attention to dashboard presentation beyond data. He seems to be okay with serving well formed and meaningful dashboard data on a paper plate, a cheap paper plate at that. Surely, the “Many” Few fans are ready to take up arms, please pause if possible. I will address my contention in more detail in a future post.

ColorBrewer 2.0, Cynthia Brewer

This is by far the best data oriented color theme guide on the web. This guide not only has superior theme selection tools, but it also provides a crisp but meaty education resource on cartography (mapping) data and color. Though this guide is framed around maps, it is very applicable to charts and graphs. ColorBrewer 2.0 was also developed in Flex which warms the hearts of us Xcelsius developers.

Below is a snapshot of a style guide we generate with our Custom UI projects. Our style guides are greatly influenced by these resources.


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