Eye-friendly graphs

I’m preparing for a conference talk, and thinking about ways to make my presentation eye-friendly, especially for colour-blind people. I don’t have colourblindness, but it affects about 4.5% of the population (8% of men) in the UK, which means that even if there’s only 50 people in the room, there’s probably going to be at least a couple of people struggling with graphs that might look perfectly lovely to me.


A great graph for me.

Colourless tongues

A crap graph for someone with deuteranopia (Coblis).

I recently read a very good article about things to think of when designing graphs for colour-blind readers, which included combinations to avoid (e.g. red/green, green/brown, green/blue, blue/purple), and a palette for choosing suitable colours.

There are of course also other issues, like general legibility based on font size/type, contrast, how much is going on in the image, and the fact that some colours (like red) tend to be more salient than others. Also, judging from that whole shebang about “the dress”, colour seems to be quite a subjective thing anyway.

But just as a gentle reminder, here are some little things you can do to make sure everyone has great thoughts about your graphs:

  • Avoid using too many colours
  • Check colourblindness compatibility
  • Create contrast with dark/light shades
  • Or use patterns instead!
  • Make sure there is enough contrast with the background
  • Use a big, clear font.

Still a great graph.

Colourless tongues2

And slightly friendlier (Coblis).

By the way, if you’re wondering what you’re looking at here, it’s tracings of someone’s tongue as they’re producing different vowels, seen in profile. (Yes, it’s cool.) The colourblind ones were created with a website called Coblis. I can also recommend a more detailed article about visibility issues that people might have, and how to get around them. Happy viewing!

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