Data Visualization: Using Branding Guidelines to Choose a Color Scheme

By Mico Yuk, Stephanie Diamond

One way to determine the right colors for your data visualization is to use the company branding guidelines — a document that many companies develop to ensure that materials produced by the company always look the same. The marketing team usually owns this document, which clearly defines the company’s logo, specific colors, fonts, and even shapes or textures that are used on anything that is branded as belonging to the company. If you’ve never heard of this document, or if you’ve heard of it but had no idea how it could be of any use to you, you’re in for a surprise. In the data-viz world, the company branding guidelines are life-savers, because they take most of the guesswork out of choosing a correct color scheme because you use the colors of the brand.

Two good examples of branding guidelines are shown in the following two figures. The first figure below displays a screenshot of the Google Visual Assets page along with a preview of Google Analytics. Though Google’s branding is very simplistic, it does show how Google utilizes its own branding guideline in its analytics displays.

The left side of the second figure below displays the brand standards for Ohio University. The right side of the figure is an infographic on the school’s website that utilizes the brand standard very precisely. Also notice the consistency in the website. The quickest way to get a feel for a company’s brand, especially in the absence of an available branding guideline, is to take a look at the company’s website. You can determine the colors and fonts by taking a peek at the page source code.

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Why are the branding guidelines such a big deal? You can use exact the same colors (usually available in pantone or RGB [red, green, blue] format) and use them in your data viz.

If you want to check out some examples of branding guidelines, the Logo Design Love website lists guidelines for some major organizations, including Walmart and Adobe.