Color Psychology and Data Visualization: Analytical Essay

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All of us at some point in life have been fascinated by colors. Do colors have any psychological effects on humans, do colors affect our everyday behavior, our reactions to things or our perceptions? Color Phycology has become a hot cake, it is difficult to fathom varied applications of color psychology. From Art and design to marketing and consumer behavior, color Phycology is everywhere. Data visualizations are another dimension where if used judiciously color psychology can do miracles. Tapping into the refined art of color and leveraging its psychological attractions in data visualization can not only result in stunning visual aesthetics but also can enhance the beauty of your story.

So let us start with when to use colors in data visualization? The answer is straightforward, always. Just the intensity with which you use colors in a visualization changes depending on the audience and the context. For example, if you are presenting in front of your peers, extensive use of colors may not be a bad idea but in a more formal setting, it becomes crucial to be cognizant about your color schemes.

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Before we progress towards the phycological effect of colors in data visualization, it is important to understand what is “Color Psychology”. Leatrice Eisemen in her book “Colors for Your Every Mood” mentions, colors can have a significant effect on human mood and behavior. Further, colors can have an indirect effect on perceptions that may not seem very obvious like the taste. She indicates, “We have a repository of information about a color”, meaning that our brain has a response for all the primary colors and it use these colors discern what we see. Any combination of primary colors are categorized as a secondary color and they can act to complement, accentuate or even tone down a message

. Let us briefly discuss a few colors and its responses :

  • Red : The color red evokes strong emotions. It can create a sense of urgency and is associated with both passion and energy. Red acts as a physical stimulation. It accelerates the heart rate, nerve impulses, and blood pressure. This color is also known to stimulate the appetite.
  • Blue : The color blue is associated with a sense of peace, reliability and calm. Blue instills a sense of reliability and security. Blue may calm the appetite but it also acts to stimulate productivity. It is a color that seems to be preferred by men and those that are younger associate the color blue with maturity.
  • Yellow : Yellow is considered to be a warm and cheerful color. It is often used to stimulate for impulse buyers as it promotes the part of the brain involving enthusiasm and logic. However, if yellow is used too much the effect can be higher anxiety. Oddly, the color yellow is one that makes babies cry.

Now the question is how colors are used in data visualization, to start over let's discuss how colors simplify the toughest of visualization. The visuals clutter created by line , bars pie charts etc. is rarely intuitive for any user. The use of color can solve this problem. For example in case of comparison use of contrasting colors like red and green or in case of scalar representation use of gradient colors can come handy.

Comparing even moderate amounts of data can be a drag for anyone to look at, with all sorts of lines and heat maps introducing visual clutter that isn’t immediately intuitive. By using contrasting colors, such as blue and orange for visualizations that compare two data sets, or a gradient of colors that are often considered to represent a scale (for example, green, yellow, orange, red), you can simplify things and help viewers see the big picture. Colors also influence the overall feel of data. Choosing the colors that make up your infographics is going to be highly dependent on how you’re trying to make your viewers feel about it. Colors can convey a sense of calmness, or give a cheerful air. They may even evoke complex feelings such as sophistication, purity, and creativity. Using the right colors for the job is important to get your viewers feeling the way you want them to feel about your data. Colors even add depth to the data. Using the same colors for everything in your visualization isn’t just confusing, it’s also terribly dull and uninteresting. Making use of contrasting colors, gradients, and other interesting color combinations can make your graphs jump out of presentations and grab viewers’ attention, and showcase deeper meaning to everything. Want to emphasize a piece of data in your bar graph? Give it a splash of red in a sea of grey. By this point, we have some sense of how colors make any data visualization more alive. So let us discuss a little about how the choice of right colors can impact your visualization.

  • Using the right color can evoke the right emotion among the audience.
  • Creating associations through colors
  • Highlighting the most important aspects of your message

As we reach towards the conclusion, I would like to draw your attention towards another dimension in color phycology. Dr.Stephanie Evergreen in one of her blogs beautifully explains how color phycology is not immune to cultural differences. She on basis of twitter survey commented that “While the color yellow generally was associated with happiness all over the globe, there were places that said the opposite, such an envy in Kuwait and cowardice in southern California and illness in Kentucky”. in one of their infographics called “DATA NEVER SLEEPS” 5.0 quoted, “There are 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created each day”. All this data has no meaning to us if we don’t convert it information, and with the changing trends, visualization are becoming the most convenient and effective way of extracting information data. In Order to fully harness the power of color these Visualizations it becomes crucial to take deep dive into the ocean of color phycology.

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Color Psychology and Data Visualization: Analytical Essay. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 16, 2024, from
“Color Psychology and Data Visualization: Analytical Essay.” Edubirdie, 27 Dec. 2022,
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