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Positive and negative colours

Opinions sought!

I'm creating a map of the UK to show annual sales changes by region.

The map is roughly divided into counties, then each are is coloured depending on its improvement or reduction in sales - from -30% to +30%

I'm trying to decide on the two principle colours to indicate positive and negative results (the colours will be tinted for the other results eg. if -30% is 100% Cyan, then -25% would be 80% Cyans, -20% would be 60% Cyan and so on.

My initial thought was to make positive results green and negative results red, but some people in the office think that red is a more "positive" colour

Anyone got any thoughts on the most positive and negative colours to use?
Don't know about more positive, psychologically red is linked with anger, danger, rage BUT in terms of a map it will be more prominent than green.

Maybe use cyan for your negatives (blue - cold) and a red / orange for the Ups? (I currently have a thing about orange, I go through strange phases).
Yes its a tricky one, as so much of it is personal perception.

I quite like the orange/cyan idea. (bit like the colour scheme of this messageboard)

Paul Murray

Staff member
Red is used for luck and money in China (thank you HSBC adverts). Generally, I would consider green to be positive and red to be negative.

Have you thought about adding pattern to represent different things? I used to have to create maps that served a similar purpose to what you're asking, but they had to work in black and white. We used different patterns to distinguish between stuff with a key demonstrating what each one represents.

Dave L

Well-Known Member
Red through amber to green works for me - everyone's familiar with the rules here and the stop/stall/go scheme would work for the information described: they may not be the most elegant set of colours but they have readily grasped meaning. Also, red may be more prominent than green but reduction in sales would, I assume, be a more serious/alarming statistic than growth in sales.
I think red and green work well, with red being the negative. Yes your attention would perhaps be drawn to the red more than green, but isn't that a good thing? don't you want to be drawn to the problem areas so you can fix them :)?
I'm using illustrator, with global colours.

I've tried a green (positive)-amber-red spread of colours, and the argument from the editor is that the red is more 'eye-catching' and therefore looks more positive.
I tried a red-grey-black spread (red being positive) but he thought that looked dull and lifeless.

I'll try the orange-blue spread and see if that garners a more positive (sic) result