Exploiting nature’s own colour palette

Came across some really nice work by Melbourne-based Greg More of OOM Creative. Titled ‘Urban Forest Visual‘, the CartoDB powered project allows users to explore a dataset of the City of Melbourne’s 70,000+ trees and appreciate some of the issues being faced to maintain their life span. You can navigate around and zoom into details of the city to see individual tree data, showing the diversity of tree types and their ‘Useful Life Expectancy’.


There is a whole lot more to the project than just this but it the colour scheme that I want to quickly draw particular attention to. Notice how the palette is derived from nature itself, with the concept of healthy leaves being green and decaying leaves tending towards orange and brown. I know this is not necessarily the case for all types of trees but its use in this project is metaphorically solid. It makes the process of interpretation so efficient, the user does need to learn how to read the scale or spend time visually searching back and forth to the legend, it is essentially automatic.


Joby BlumeJune 25th, 2013 at 8:19 am

True, but I’m red-green colour-’blind’ and I can’t tell ‘at risk’ and ‘dying’ apart at all in that visual, and struggle with all of the top four of those colours.

It looks great I’m sure – but nature isn’t always kind to the colour-blind.

Andy KirkJune 25th, 2013 at 8:23 am

Thanks for sharing Joby, I wasn’t sure if it would fall down on that front but appreciate your response to clarify that.

Greg, OOM CreativeJune 25th, 2013 at 10:58 am

Yes this is a clear issue with using this colour range. There is a great article by Gregor Aisch about avoiding red-green colour scales http://vis4.net/blog/posts/goodbye-redgreen-scales/ We’ll look into implementing a future update with an option for people to switch to an alternatively coloured scheme. This optional view won’t carry the metaphor that Andy has so well articulated above, but will another layer of accessibility to the information. Thanks for the comment Joby.

Nick DiakopoulosJune 25th, 2013 at 11:25 am

Speaking of deriving a color scheme from nature, the new Adobe Kuler app is pretty snazzy. Using the camera you can snap up harmonized color palettes from your environment. More info in this Wired piece: http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2013/06/adobe-kuler-app/

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