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    I’ve got a lot of dataviz skeletons in my closet. This beauty comes from my second week as an evaluator:
    Custom color palette from a novice evaluator.
    Border, grid lines, tick marks…. A legend instead of direct labeling… A generic title instead of a “so what?” title… You get the idea.

    Today I want to focus on intentional color schemes. The client’s logo was blue and green. Why’d we use those oranges? Because we’d been using Excel’s blues in other reports and wanted to try something new. Um, yeah. It was an honest effort. Somehow default oranges seemed better. That was the extent of intentionality in my charts.

    Now that I know what I’m doing…

    It’s no longer my second week in evaluation. Follow the Data Visualization Checklist and we’ll hang out in the now-we-know-better club together.
    Here’s what Stephanie Evergreen and I laid out in the Checklist: Color scheme is intentional  means that Color schemes should represent brand or other intentional choice, not default color schemes. A safe bet for consultants is to use your client’s colors.

    How’d my original chart score? 0/2 points, no surprise there.

    So not this:
    Screenshot of a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet showing the color palettes available with 'NO' written over them.

    But Ann do you have examples of color schemes done well? Great question.

    You bet.

    Matching the American Evaluation Association’s Logo

    I recently made a video about AEA’s Data Visualization and Reporting topical interest group. The video debuts on www.aea365.org later this month. I want viewers to remember that I’m talking about a dataviz group within AEA. Crazy idea, I know I know. The video’s word cloud, circle chart, bar chart, and line chart matched AEA’s classic burgundy.

    Intentional Color Scheme: 2/2 points
    Custom color palette derived from an organization's logo and existing colors.

    Matching the Working Families Success Network’s Logo

    Johanna Morariu and I were evaluating the Working Families Success Network’s conference. When we designed the slide report, the obvious choice was to match their logo instead of Innovation Network’s logo. (Full publication: http://workingfamiliessuccess.com/wp-content/uploads/wfsn13_presentation_final_pres.pdf.)

    Intentional Color Scheme: 2/2 points
    Custom color palette derived from an organization's logo and its colors.

    Matching Your Consulting Firm’s Logo

    Sometimes it’s perfectly fine to match charts to your own consulting firm’s logo, like when you’re writing a publication that’ll come directly from your firm. In this example, I matched the dot plot, bar charts, and unit charts to the publication’s existing color palette. (Full publication: www.innonet.org/resources/files/innonet-coalition-assessment.pdf.)

    Intentional Color Scheme: 2/2 points
    Custom color palette derived from an organization's existing logo and colors.

    Matching… Nobody’s?… Logo

    Agata Jose-Ivanina and I led a dashboard webinar last year. We didn’t need to match the charts and diagrams to any specific logo. I visited www.design-seeds.com, selected a palette, and matched our workshop materials to those RGB codes. (More slides: https://depictdatastudio.com/portfolio/dashboards-estudy/.)

    Intentional Color Scheme: 2/2 points
    Custom color palette found at Design-seeds.com.

    Matching George Mason’s Logo

    Maybe you’re a student and not a consultant. Easy: Match your maps, bar charts, timelines, diagrams, and tables to your university’s logo.

    Intentional Color Scheme: 2/2 points
    Custom color palette derived from an organization's logo and existing colors.

    I know what I’m doing but still ignore guidelines sometimes…

    What does a “1” look like on our Data Visualization Checklist?

    I showed you my proposal defense. One day it was time for my full defense.

    But. I hate green and yellow.

    So I cheated and used blue and purple instead. Even though this slide scheme was easier for me to look at, it doesn’t deserve full points on the Data Visualization Checklist.

    Intentional Color Scheme: 1/2 points
    Custom color palette that compliments an organization's existing logo and colors.

    Stephanie Evergreen and I are both illustrating examples from our Data Visualization Checklist. Check out Stephanie’s examples at stephanieevergreen.com/tag/data-visualization-checklist. Her latest post is on using labels sparingly: http://stephanieevergreen.com/labels-are-used-sparingly/.

    In two weeks, you’ll see a remake from my workshop attendee and new friend Stephen Alexander. His remade chart matches his organization’s colors perfectly. In the meantime, how are you using intentional color schemes in your charts?

    More about Ann K. Emery
    Ann K. Emery is a sought-after speaker who is determined to get your data out of spreadsheets and into stakeholders’ hands. Each year, she leads more than 100 workshops, webinars, and keynotes for thousands of people around the globe. Her design consultancy also overhauls graphs, publications, and slideshows with the goal of making technical information easier to understand for non-technical audiences.


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