Rainbow Dash: Intuitiveness, Interpretability and Memorability of the Rainbow Color Scheme in Visualization

Izabela Golebiowska, Arzu Çöltekin

View presentation:2021-10-28T13:30:00ZGMT-0600Change your timezone on the schedule page
Exemplar figure, described by caption below
The tested stimuli: Rainbow and sequential color schemes applied on choropleth and isarithmic maps
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Direct link to video on YouTube: https://youtu.be/yZ_VvA4mW9g


Color, visualization, colormap, color perception, visual design


After demonstrating that rainbow colors are still commonly used in scientific publications, we comparatively evaluate the rainbow and sequential color schemes on choropleth and isarithmic maps in an empirical user study with 544 participants to examine if a) people intuitively associate order for the colors in these schemes, b) they can successfully conduct perceptual and semantic map reading and recall tasks with quantitative data where order may have implicit or explicit importance. We find that there is little to no agreement in ordering of rainbow colors while sequential colors are indeed intuitively ordered by the participants with a strong dark is more bias. Sequential colors facilitate most quantitative map reading tasks better than the rainbow colors, whereas rainbow colors competitively facilitate extracting specific values from a map, and may support hue recall better than sequential. We thus contribute to dark- vs. light is more bias debate, and demonstrate why and when rainbow colors may impair performance, and add further nuance to our understanding of this highly popular, yet highly criticized color scheme.