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Lesson Navigation IconLayout Design Settings / Graphical Semiology

Unit Navigation IconMap Size and Scale

Unit Navigation IconDefinition and Organisation of Map Elements

Unit Navigation IconTypography

Unit Navigation IconColour Design

LO Navigation IconColour Basics

LO Navigation IconColour Models

LO Navigation IconColour Rules

LO Navigation IconColour Harmony

LO Navigation IconColour Harmonious Proportions

LO Navigation IconColour Expressions

LO Navigation IconColour Contrasts

LO Navigation IconColour Interaction

LO Navigation IconColour Conventions

LO Navigation IconColour Schemes in General

Unit Navigation IconReadability Rules

Unit Navigation IconMap Critics

Unit Navigation IconSummary

Unit Navigation IconRecommended Reading

Unit Navigation IconGlossary

Unit Navigation IconBibliography

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Colour Harmony

In visual experiences, harmony is something that is pleasing to the eye. It engages the viewer and it creates an inner sense of order, a balance in the visual experience. When something is not harmonious, it's either boring or chaotic. The human brain will reject under-stimulating information and the human brain rejects what it cannot organise or understand. Visual tasks require that we present a logical structure. Colour harmony delivers visual interest and a sense of order; it is a dynamic equilibrium.

What does this mean, especially for cartography? Harmony relates to the overall architecture for the entire map. What is necessary will be pointed out by a special colour or by a colour of the overall scheme, but with more opacity or more saturation. It will let you ask the question: Have you respected the traditionally given colour conventions or is there another possibility for design – will this have a negative influence on the ease of communication?

The colour scheme with its individual expression, does it match relatively to the content? Another question, which you should answer positively in order to reach harmony is: Have you applied the colouring rule for showing quantities, i.e. is the brightness or the saturation corresponding with the numerical gradations?

Last but not least: Is the map colour balanced – are dominant colours applied to larger areas, in relation to weak ones, not overpowering the map - dominant colours are all colours that contrast greatly with the surrounding. In most cases, the areas to colour are fixed geographically, which means that you only have colours to play with that build a non relocatable composition. This needs to be planned carefully.

If you now should be afraid of choosing any colour because of its more evident complexity, take the following statement made by E. Imhof, the founder of the Institute of Cartography, into account: A colour in itself is neither beautiful nor ugly. The attributes will be significant not until you perceive it with an object. [..] To analyse graphics with scientific methods is very difficulty. [..] It can just be seen as an explanation of general experiences and customs (Imhof 1972, p. 51) .

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