I have a GANTT planning application where each activity or job has a status. In the next release users asked for the possibility to add colors to activity statuses however I need to choose a standard coloring for the pre-configured activity statuses.

The possible activity statuses are:


I would like the colors to be intuitive, and so possibly to imitate some well known and studied interface or program.

I would also like to avoid the red, it would indeed give the impression of something wrong and would grab too much attention while instead all statuses above have to be all perfectly legal. I want also to avoid people not setting the status to some state because the color might give an idea of something not ok.

These are the colors I came with just by intuition:

color scheme table

to be confirmed and postponed are similar color on purpose.. they both should be similar to an open activity in my opinion and grab some attention.

  • Whatever you do, make sure that you use colors more different from each other than what you now have for To Be Confirmed and Deferred. These are very close, at least for me. Also, take into account color blindness, so don't rely on color alone.
    – André
    Commented Jun 21, 2013 at 9:22
  • CLOSE => CLOSED. As for OPEN, is it a natural state of a task? Tasks in their natural state should have normal background color to avoid distracting users. Commented Jun 21, 2013 at 9:30
  • Open is the default state, it should attract attention because one mostly will change open tasks into something else. What's a normal background? a transparent one would make all other tasks jump out which is not the case
    – dendini
    Commented Jun 21, 2013 at 12:17
  • Is there any difference between POSTPONED and DEFERRED ? A good practice in software specification is choosing one phrase for one concept. Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 10:25
  • CANCELED has to written CANCELLED. Commented Jun 22, 2013 at 10:26

3 Answers 3


There are many studies about colour, but what is important is to use bright colours for the things that require action.

We associate actions with the traffic lights. Green go, yellow check if you have time and red stop.

Your actions are:

Open - Go, so definitely green

To be confirmed - Requires check - definitely yellow

Postponed- Requires a bright colour, but not inmediate action - so blue is an option

Cancelled - Suspended and Closed = Can be shades of grey because they don't require an action. If suspended can go back into Open, I would suggest then a different colour.

enter image description here

I am adding two versions of cancelled. One red and one grey. I would support the red but I know that the person who published the question was trying to avoid this colour, so I suggested a dark red that will not look as an error- failing that, a grey can be used.

  • I think "cancelled" should be red and this scheme will be perfect Commented Jun 21, 2013 at 9:44
  • I think the OP has a point when he said "I would also like to avoid the red, it would indeed give the impression of something wrong and would grab too much attention while instead all statuses above have to be all perfectly legal." So no, the red does not help. And it hurts the clear distinction between require action and don't require action.
    – André
    Commented Jun 21, 2013 at 10:02
  • I have given a couple of options. I think a dark red would be a compromise if red was the option that was intended to be used, if not, grey will be my preference because it doesn't prompt an action. It's just for reference.
    – Rosie
    Commented Jun 21, 2013 at 10:39
  • 1
    a dark red almost brown could be an option indeed.
    – dendini
    Commented Jun 21, 2013 at 12:20
  • I would recommend a different color for "Suspended". A suspended state is one that ultimately needs further action, and coloring it similarly to Canceled or Closed will visually suggest that it is in a final state.
    – Matthew
    Commented Jun 21, 2013 at 15:34

AFAIK, there is no such color binding for Gantt charts, so any hard binding would be making user adapt to some idea custom for such tool, and making users adapt to something uncommon is (or just: may be) bad UX. Thus, there are two things I would consider:

BTW - Postponed and TBC are definitely too close in your proposal.

  • 1
    user will be able to customize colors indeed, but I need to put some default ones for predefined statuses.
    – dendini
    Commented Jun 21, 2013 at 12:21

What is it exactly that you want to communicate? As far as I'm aware, the purpose of a gantt chart is to visualize the break down a project into a series of smaller tasks. In this context I'd say the open tasks are most important, the unconfirmed tasks are second and the rest is hardly relevant, except perhaps for the project manager. So all you need to do is to translate the hierarchy of importance into visibility. Open tasks should catch the eye, unconfirmed tasks should be visible, but not stand out, whereas all the other tasks may be visible, but only in the background. Visibility, then, is not determined by color but by contrast. So the most eyecatching tasks should contrast as much as possible. Against a white background, that means a dark color. Purple is the darkest color, but may have some unwanted connotations. Therefor blue, another dark color, is possibly the best choice in this case. The unconfirmed tasks can be grey. It should be a rather dark grey, though not darker than the blue. The other, less important tasks, can also be grey, but light as to diminish the contrast.

Obviously, I made some assumptions about the purpose and the context of the chart that may be wrong. But I suppose you get my drift... enter image description here

  • +1 for visualizing the colour palette on an actual Gantt chart to see that it conveys the right meaning.
    – Michael Lai
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 2:19

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