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Data at Work: Best practices for creating effective charts and information graphics in Microsoft® Excel® by Jorge Camões

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15. Color: Beyond Aesthetics

Avoid catastrophe. According to Edward Tufte, this is “the first principle” when using color in data visualization.1 Given the complexity contained in this warning, avoiding catastrophe is not an easy task to achieve.

1 Tufte, Edward. Envisioning Information. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press, 1990.

Color is a complicated physiological phenomenon associated with symbolic, aesthetic, and emotional qualities. Each of these qualities is enough by itself to wreak havoc in data visualizations if not treated with care. Together, they make disaster almost inevitable and justify Tufte’s principle.

In an organizational environment, the talent of applying subtle color harmonies isn’t one of the most valued skills, as proven by the ...

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