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I'm looking for some information on mapping color to graphs. To be more specific, I've got a bunch of graphs that represent Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and now Google+ in line charts.

We've had an on going discussion about whether to choose colors that people associate with each social media network or to ditch them completely.

The issue is that the first three are similar blues and the last is black (or mulit-colored). Some argue we should split it, and have Twitter and Facebook be in the color that people associate with them but not LinkedIn or Google+. Others argue that if you have two that people recognize from their memory it would confuse people not to have the other two also represented. I've done a bunch of research around color and graphs. But I can't find anything that really answers this problem.

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2 Answers 2

I think you should check this site http://www.good.is/infographics which has lot of infographics covering different categories.

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Thanks! I'll do that. :) –  Diana Nov 18 '11 at 0:23

If there are too many items using similar colours you're better off using a different labeling technique. If the chart is branded in the correct colours but everything looks the same the chart won't actually be readable so you negate the purpose of it existing. It's better to go off-brand for the colours and keep the chart readable than trying to crowbar in colours just as a nice-to-have. (Not to mention the negative assessability issues of having low-contrast differences in the colours).

If you do want to keep with the relevant brand colours then at least provide the user with a way of identifying which line is which - possibly via clicking the legend labels for each one and have that highlight on the chart - See StatCounter for an example of how they deal with similar colours on a chart.

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I know that the eye can visually distinguish up to 6 shades of a single color. My thought was to create "caricatures" of the blues people associate with each brand, stretching the truth a bit in order to make them more distinguishable. So we hit the accessibility issues as well as brand association. Minimizing the need of a legend/key since there are many graphs on this page. –  Diana Nov 18 '11 at 0:29
    
Users can already turn different lines on an off as you suggested above. But since I haven't been able to find anything to support my theory, I'm thinking I might as well just pick nice colors and call it a day. –  Diana Nov 18 '11 at 0:37

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