Show Me The Numbers - tribute to Tufte/Few

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Show Me The Numbers - tribute to Tufte/Few

Choosing Colors

The reknowned master of visualizations, Edward Tufte recommended use of soft colors that do not tire the eyes.  I've actually never read his books (yet), but a former boss of mine was a devout disciple and produced some beautifully soft color palettes.


Stephen Few, in "Show Me the Numbers," reiterated Tufte's color theories and recommended three sets of hues:


  1. Light - for large shapes, e.g. bars
  2. Medium - for small shapes, e.g. points
  3. Dark/Bright - for calling attention to data
He also recommended avoiding using both red and green in the same graph due to red-green color blindness.  He suggested you can use one, but using both would result in the RG color blind person seeing them as the same ... probably not what you intended.
Few further suggested the following colors are the easiest to differentiate:
  • Gray
  • Blue
  • Orange
  • Green
  • Pink 
  • Brown
  • Purple
  • Yellow
  • Red

Sample Palettes

To build the theme, first I set out to find the colors listed above.
  1. Find the colors - I'm not sure of the base Hex colors, but I looked at color groups to find colors close to those recommended in "Show Me the Numbers"
  2. Find the proper hue - I used this monochromatic chooser
  3. Add the colors to a theme.  Download a theme you like and then just change the hex color values in it.
  4. Adjust the colors - if they are too intense, try lightening them
  5. Fine tune the cards
    1. A sample of every card
    2. Visual card sample