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Who I am

I am now a full-time member of Tableau Research, where I work on color and visualization. Therefore, I am no longer doing any outside consulting. I am leaving this site for now, for its historical content.

I am an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University, School for Interactive Arts and Technology (SFU/SIAT).


Before starting StoneSoup in 1998, I worked twenty years at Xerox PARC on color printing, digital color, interactive computer graphics, illustration and design systems. (publications)

My book

A Field Guide to Digital Color was published by A.K. Peters in August of 2003. Intended for a broad audience, it provides an overview of the many "fields" that are a part of digital color, including basic vision and psychophysics, color reproduction, computer graphics, and color design. (more).

StoneSoup Projects

July-Dec 2011 Lots of work at SFU-SIAT, supervising graduate students and writing a TVCG on paper with Lyn Bartram on our grid studies (Whisper, Don't Scream: Grids and Transparency). Paper was accepted, revised, and is now published.

June 2010: Gave a talk on categorical colors at the Stanford Visualization Group meeting (slides). Went to the Plato@50 reunion at the Computer History Museum, and have started a smal project with Nelson Education on best practices for educational slides.

January 2010: Am starting to work with the CzSaw Visual Analytics project at SFU/SIAT. Am also working with Jeff Heer and his student, Dan Chang, on a color naming experiment.

Fall 2009: Working with Tableau Software on some enhanced color schemes for their product. Am also busy finishing my term at EIC of Computer Graphics and Applications, including learning more about GoToMeeting and Google Sites.

Summer 2009: With Jock MacKinlay, prepared a talk for the Tableau Customer's Conference on Exploiting the Power of the Human Visual System, explaining how we used our understanding of the human visual system to create some of the features in Tableau's product (slides). At the conference, I had a chance to meet Garr Reynolds, who invited me to contribute a sidebar on functional color to his new book Presentation Zen Design.

Spring 2009: I've been working with BonaVista Systems and Stephen Few on an Excel plug-in called Chart Tamer. It provides a simple UI for creating nice looking graphs (design by Stephen) that use good-looking, visually effective colors (designed by me). The product is now available for purchase.

Lyn Bartram and I presented a paper at the Color Imaging Conference, in Portland November 11-14th 2008. Title is "Alpha, contrast and the perception of visual metadata," which is about some experiments we have performed on the perception of transparent, overlaid grids. I'm also an author with Jason Chuang and Pat Hanrahan on "A Probabilistic Model of the Categorical Association Between Colors," which is a method for analyzing and manipulating color naming data.

Lyn Bartram and I ran a workshop at the 2008 IEEE Visualization conference called Design, Vision and Visualization

I was invited to participate in Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Symposium on the topic of Promoting Digital Scholarship, whose goal is to define research goals for digital scholarship in the humanities. Here is the public website, and here is the online version of my whitepaper, which describes the importance of information visualization for the humanities.

Summer 2008: Have been working to understand contrast metrics in all their many forms. Here's some informal writing on the topic.

Working with NIST, I've created a a set of guidelines for using color in voting kiosks. The primary motivation is to make color encoding accessible for people with color vision deficiency (aka colorblindness). However, the guidelines will more broadly encode good color design practice. Of primary concern is maintaining legibility even for users with less than perfect vision. (January-June, 2008)

Polle Zellweger and I taught a class on Information Visualization and Aesthetics (INFO 424) at the University of Washington Information School (iSchool). Here are the class websites: 2007, 2006.

Summer 2007: I've been thinking and talking about my work in the context of design, stimulated by a couple of invited talks. (see Talks below)

Together with Lyn Bartram and Diane Gromala, I am exploring the design, perceptual and cognitive characteristics of subtle visualization elements such as grids. We have published a poster at the Vis2007, which won the best poster award (abstract, slides). Previously, we had a poster at APGV06 and SIGGRAPH 2006 (abstract).

At the request of Stephen Few, data visualization consultant and author of Show Me the Numbers, I've written an article about using color effectively to display data. Written for the business intelligence community, has been published as an online newsletter by B-EYE-NETWORK (archived in PDF form)

I have done several color and UI projects for Tableau Software. Tableau's award-winning product is a visual analysis and reporting solution that allows people to explore and analyze databases with simple drag and drop operations.

Together with a large panel of contributors, I helped write the R&D Agenda for the National Visual Analytics Center. This has been published as a book, Illuminating the Path, which is available through IEEE Press.

Prior to our move to the Seattle area in 2003, I worked with the Interactive Workspaces project at Stanford University on a variety of projects, from creating large format displays using projectors to Ubicomp interaction techniques.

Starting January 2007, I became Editor in Chief of Computer Graphics and Applications. I regularly review papers for magazines, journals and conferences.

Recent talks and short courses

(6/2/2010) Why is categorical color so hard? Talk for the Stanford Visualization Group (slides).

(7/21/2009) Exploiting the Power of the Human Visual System, with Jock Mackinlay, for the Tableau Customer Conference. (slides)

(11/14/2008) Conference paper at CIC 16, "Alpha, contrast and the perception of visual metadata," with Lyn Bartram. (slides) IS&T/SID Color Imaging Conference, Portland, OR, November 11-14th

(10/19/2008) Half-day course at the IEEE Visualization Conference, on Color in Information Display. (Course notes and slides)

(10/28/2007) Half-day course at the IEEE Visualization Conference, on Color in Information Display. (Course notes and slides)

(09/4/2007) Invited industry talk and course presentation in the series on Visual Storytelling and Data Visualization at the AIM Institute in Omaha, NB. Color Design: From Seeing Red to Feeling Blue (slides)

(06/22/2007) Invited talk on Designing Color for Data at the Computational Aesthetics symposium in Banff, Alberta, Canada. (slides)

(10/31/2006) Half-day course at the IEEE Visualization Conference, on Color in Information Display. (Course notes and slides)

(01/18/2006) Graduate colloquium at SIAT, the School of Interactive Arts and Technology at Simon Fraser University, on Color in Information Display.

(10/28/2005) Half-day course at the IEEE Visualization Conference, on Color in Information Display. (Course notes and slides)

(10/05/2005) Seminar on Color in Information Display at the Rochester Institute of Technology. (slides)

Teaching Flash

I taught a class on Flash animation to a small class of 8th and 9th graders at the Woodinville Montessori School. Student websites: 2004-2005, 2005-2006. For today's students, I believe literacy in the web and digital media is crucial. Here's why.

Color resources

I have found the web a rich resource for color information (good and bad). Here are some of my favorite links.


I play oboe and English horn with the Eastside Symphony and occasionally with other groups in the Puget Sound area. I sing with Concord and Con Brio, both part of the Columbia Choirs.