International Conference on Theory and Application of Diagrams

Diagrams 2014: Diagrammatic Representation and Inference pp 176-189 | Cite as

Exploring the Effects of Colouring Graph Diagrams on People of Various Backgrounds

  • Beryl Plimmer
  • Ann Morrison
  • Hendrik Knoche
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 8578)


Colour is one of the primary aesthetic elements of a visualization. It is often used successfully to encode information such as the importance of a particular part of the diagram or the relationship between two parts. Even so, there are few investigations into the human reading of colour coding on diagrams from the scientific community. In this paper we report on an experiment with graph diagrams comparing a black and white composition with two other colour treatments. We drew our subjects from engineering, art, visual design, physical education, tourism, psychology and social science disciplines. We found that colouring the nodes of interest reduced the time taken to find the shortest path between the two nodes for all subjects. Engineers, tourism and social scientists proved significantly faster with artist/designers just below the overall average speed. From this study, we contribute that adding particular colour treatments to diagrams increases legibility. In addition, preliminary work investigating colour treatments and schemes indicates potential for future gains.


Colour encoding of diagrams Graph diagram aesthetics Subjects Disciplines’ Effects 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Beryl Plimmer
    • 1
  • Ann Morrison
    • 2
  • Hendrik Knoche
    • 2
  1. 1.Dept Computer ScienceUniversity of AucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of Architecture, Design and Media TechnologyDenmark

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