Which Data Type Can Be Symbolized With Graduated Colors?


Larry Thompson

Data visualization is an essential tool for understanding and interpreting complex information. One powerful technique used in data visualization is the use of graduated colors to represent different data types. Graduated colors allow us to easily identify patterns and trends in our data by assigning a specific color to each data value or range.

Let’s explore which data types can be effectively symbolized with graduated colors.

Numerical Data:
One of the most common types of data that can be symbolized with graduated colors is numerical data. This includes continuous variables such as temperature, population density, or income levels. By assigning a color gradient to these variables, we can create visual representations that highlight variations across a range of values.

Example: Suppose we have a dataset that represents the average monthly temperature in different cities around the world. We can use graduated colors to create a map where warmer temperatures are represented by red shades, and cooler temperatures are represented by blue shades. This allows us to quickly identify regions with higher or lower temperatures.

Categorical Data:
While graduated colors are commonly used for numerical data, they can also be effective for symbolizing categorical data. Categorical data represents discrete categories or groups, such as different product categories, customer segments, or political parties.

Example: Let’s say we have a dataset that classifies countries into three categories based on their economic development: high income, middle income, and low income. We can assign a unique color to each category and use graduated colors within each category to represent variations within those groups. This approach allows us to visualize both the overall distribution of countries across economic categories and the differences within each category.

Ordinal Data:
Ordinal data represents variables with ordered levels or ranks. Examples include survey responses on Likert scales (e.g., strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, strongly disagree) or educational qualifications (e., high school, bachelor’s, master’s, Ph.D.).

Example: Suppose we have survey data on customer satisfaction with a product, ranging from “very satisfied” to “very dissatisfied.” We can assign a color gradient to represent the different levels of satisfaction, with darker shades indicating higher levels of satisfaction. This visualization allows us to easily identify which customers are most satisfied and which are least satisfied.


In conclusion, graduated colors can be used to symbolize various types of data, including numerical, categorical, and ordinal. This powerful technique allows us to visually represent complex information in an engaging and intuitive way.

By incorporating graduated colors into our data visualizations, we can uncover patterns and trends that might otherwise go unnoticed.

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