Friday, March 13, 2015

History of Crayola Colors

Iron Viz entry #2

If you’ve been on Facebook recently, I’m sure you’ve witnessed the popularity of crayon art.  This is art created by melting crayons onto a canvas.  My younger sister joined the trend and has created some cool pieces of her own, showcased below:

I found a List of Crayola crayon colors while looking through Wikipedia’s List of Lists of Lists.  The variety of colors that have been introduced over the years is incredible.  After seeing this, I knew that I had to build a viz with it.  What made it fun was that this data absolutely required the use of lots of colors – something that’s rarely recommended in dashboards.  Using crayon art as inspiration, I decided to focus this viz on the variety of colors that have been introduced and retired over the years.

This dashboard required a couple of unique techniques.  The first was building a custom color palette.  If you’re not familiar with custom palettes, Tableau provides a great article explaining how to Create Custom Color Palettes.  Since there were 151 colors, in order to make assigning them seamless, I sorted the colors alphabetically and then used Excel to create the XML tags around each color’s hex values before copy/pasting them into the Preferences.tps file.  Tip:  Excel makes a great companion when you’re creating really long calculations.  Now that I had my custom colors assigned, I wanted to find a way to sort it into a gradient of like colors.  What I found is that it’s pretty tough to sort hex colors into a rainbow-like gradient.  I did find a great article, Grouping Hex Colorsby Hue, detailing the best way to sort hex using HSL and HSV.  This method isn’t perfect but it does provide a good enough gradient that makes the color trends stand out better.  The other unique technique I used was for the crayon color change effect.  That was achieved through the use of a transparent image floated over a bar chart.  The crayon image was created in PowerPoint.

Enjoy the viz and make sure to click around to learn more about each color.


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  2. This is awesome! Are the eight crayons found in the present 8 pack box of Crayola Crayons the same eight colors that were first introduced in 1903? Excited about using the viz to find out! Nice work Stephen. With the whole Adult Coloring (-easing stress/calming one's inner child/regaining mindfulness/getting a digital detox) Theory gaining such phenomenal success in the last couple years, the timing of your interesting data discovery couldn't have been better. I've seen your sister's art on FB and Pinterest, beautiful.

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