Keeping the Color Deficient in Mind when Creating Data Visualizations

04/13/2018 by Jaime D’Agord Data Communication, Modernization - Analytics

There is a misconception that people who are color blind cannot see color at all. There is a small percentage of the population that proves this true, those who have monochromatic vision. But the majority of people considered color deficient can see colors. They just have difficulty differentiating between colors. Red and green being the hardest for them to distinguish.

Visualizing and the Color Deficient

It is important to keep the color deficient in mind when creating data visualizations as approximately 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women have this condition according to Color Blind Awareness.

  • When designing a scatter plot for instance, make the dots larger, space them out or use a wide range of intensities.
  • When creating a geo regional map data visualization, use various shades of one color. There is a good representation here on Tricia Aanderud’s “bi-notes”.

Tips for Designing with the Color Deficient in mind

Good design practices would ensure you take all of the population into consideration when creating data visualizations. An easy way to do this is to use a tool like for selecting color deficient safe palettes. If you are creating your own, to avoid color deficient pitfalls, here are some considerations:

  • Use a standard color palette that is ‘color deficient friendly’ – having a standardized palette set up is a sure way to avoid colors that may prove difficult or frustrating to the color deficient
  • Know the combinations – some colors are harder for the color deficient to differentiate. Avoiding color combinations like red and green, light green and yellow, brown and green
  • Use monochrome – distinguishing between colors can be difficult, using various shades of one color is a safe way to avoid issues when designing with the color deficient in mind
  • Differences in hue, saturation and brightness can be used to your advantage as color blind people can still perceive contrast.

What does the Color Deficient See?

The images below depict the differences between what a red-green color deficient person would see and what everyone else sees:


The following shows the same differences but in data visualizations. If a color deficient person were to read the graph below, they would more than likely not read the information correctly as the red and green blend and appear to be almost the same brown color.


Following good design practices as previously mentioned, the pie chart above was recreated using monochromatic colors. While the colors have changed slightly, the shading is consistent in both visuals.



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