DESIGNING A COLOR GRAPHICS PAGE (CHECKLIST)
Step 4: Decide where chromatic color will be used and why Step 5: Choose colors Step 6: Solve problems
The process sketched below is intended for design of color usage in complicated graphics that support high-information-load, high-threat decisions, as in aerospace applications. Design of the color scheme must take into account the overall design of the application's functionality--what the user is trying to do and how.
usually needs to be iterative, especially in complicated graphics. Problems encountered
in later steps require
going back to a previous step and restarting. In very simple cases it
might be possible to leave out some steps , and other steps might take slightly
different form in particular cases, but the overall logic of the recipe
should be reliable. If the steps are all well executed, the resulting graphic
should be usable, safe and efficient.
of the data planning phase should not be underestimated. Knowing what
information to display and what priority each level of information should
have is critical to making color design decisions.
Phase 1: Data Planning
In complex applications these steps can be difficult and expensive in both time and money, requiring staff with sophisticated domain and human factors expertise. Nevertheless this is a critical part of the process. Without it there is no way to design graphics that are optimal for safety and efficiency.
Sample ATC Data Hierarchy
Now that we understand the data to be displayed we're ready to design graphics that support our users' tasks.
Contrast Polarity. The first graphics choice is the contrast polarity--will the display be "radar-like" (bright symbols on dark backgrounds) or "map-like" (dark symbols on light backgrounds). Both have been successful in various applications; both have pros and cons.
More on Choosing Background Colors.
Build the Perceptual Hierarchy--Managing Attention. The next step is to design the perceptual hierarchy, manipulating the salience (perceptual prominence) of the data layers to match their positions in the urgency hierarchy as closely as possible. Remember to try to leave options for any later additions of further data types.
Salience can be manipulated by adjusting luminance contrast, symbol/font size, line weight, flashing, and auditory alerts. Chromatic color can be used to make some data "pop out" (see next step), but the other color purposes in that step need to be considered at the same time. Do the achromatic manipulations first.
More on Creating Perceptual Layers.
With the first iteration of planning done we're now ready to choose specific colors.
At this point we should be nearing a workable design, with only a few significant color assignment problems to solve. If not, we have to return to the early steps and reconsider our decisions. There are several options for resolving the remaining problems, listed in order of decreasing desirability:
Other Related Topics:
Design of Cockpit Graphics (Example)
Design of Air Traffic Management Graphics (Example)