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On a recent trip, we stopped at Ft. Vancouver in Vancouver, WA, which is a reconstruction of a fort and trading center from the mid-1800′s. In the Counting House was this display of colors indicative of those used in well-to-do homes and important public buildings. Childishly simple and bright by modern standards,  the exhibit text [...]

Sep 7th, 2010 | Filed under Uncategorized

The photographs of Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) offer a vivid portrait of a lost world–the Russian Empire on the eve of World War I and the coming revolution. Taken between 1909 and 1912, the photographer exposed three glass plates in quick succession, each through a different color filter (red, green and blue). A full color [...]

Aug 27th, 2010 | Filed under Uncategorized

Back when I was in college, I had the good fortune to become involved in the Plato IV computer-aided instruction project. The Plato IV system consisted of up to a 1000 terminals connected to a CDC mainframe computer. Each terminal had a black and orange plasma display, using the same basic technology now in plasma [...]

Jun 6th, 2010 | Filed under Uncategorized

“Color blindness,” or more formally, color vision deficiencies (CVD) affect roughly 10% of the population, mostly men.  Few people are truly blind to color; most simply have some degree of weakness perceiving certain parts of the spectrum.  People with CVD often compensate by being more sensitive to differences in luminance, texture, and position. Predicting the [...]

May 24th, 2010 | Filed under Uncategorized

Edward Tufte, in his classic book Envisioning Information, begins his chapter on color with the admonition: “Above all, do not harm.” Color used well can enhance and beautify, but color used poorly can be worse than no color at all. For example, if text is displayed on a background that varies in lightness or color [...]

Apr 1st, 2010 | Filed under Uncategorized

Consider this map of Point Reyes and its surrounding area, created by the National Park Service (PDF). Like most well-designed maps, it is an excellent example of functional color. Color is used systematically to label the different regions (water, land, parkland), and to indicate the different types of roads (major highway, secondary highway, surface roads). [...]

Mar 30th, 2010 | Filed under Uncategorized

Functional color is designed for a purpose, color whose aesthetics are linked to its application. Now, it could be argued that all color has a purpose. But here, I will be talking primarily about color used in presenting information, such as a slide presentation, an illustration, or a data-driven visualization. Functional color choices are legible, [...]

Mar 30th, 2010 | Filed under Uncategorized