Somewhere Over The Crayon-Bow

A Cheerier Crayola Color Chronology

by Stephen Von Worley on October 14, 2010
Velo's Crayola Color Chart, 1903-2010

Velo's Crayola Color Chart, 1903-2010

Back in January, as the story goes, my pseudonymous buddy Velociraptor rolled Wikipedia’s list of Crayola colors into a visual crayon chronology. That’s it on the right.

Most people seemed to enjoy Velo’s chart and happily Twit-booked it across the InterWebs. However, we also noticed a “color overpopulation” sub-meme, best characterized by viral content aggregator Buzzfeed:

Like everything else in our culture, Crayons have just become far too complicated.

We nodded sympathetically… but at the same time, Velo wondered if he’d been entirely fair in his presentation. Yes, the square design looks snappy, but as the colors multiply, they’re forced into ever-narrower slivers of the fixed vertical space – like sardines! Clearly, another choice of layout might have been more flattering.

So, yesterday evening, after finishing off the last bits of Velo’s divinely-grilled pterodactyl, we embarked upon a redesign. Our goal was to maintain the clean geometric aesthetic, while dialing down the “indictment of overzealous product management” and cranking up the “celebration of diversity!” We’d use the same data as before, tweaked slightly per the feedback of historians, who told us that Crayola’s early 16-color boxes tended to include English Vermilion (aka “red orange”) rather than brick red.

To give us some graphical bearings, Velo fired up the Photoshop and proceeded to flip, stretch, spin, and twist the original chart:

Crayola Chart Experiments

The one in the middle – equal parts rainbow and Rising Sun – looked downright inspirational, so we ran with it. As Velo accelerated into a blur of reptilian muscle movement, claws clacked, mouse pointers danced, and keyboards hummed. He exclaimed that he’d “add mouseover name labels too!” Then, after sixty more seconds of hyperactivity, he turned his display to reveal a cheerier Crayola Color Chart, 1903-2010:

A New-And-Improved Crayola Color Chart

For a moment, we sat in silent awe of the huge difference that one simple change – in this case, a transition from grid to radial data presentation – can make. Then, beaming a grin that only comes with 75-million years of wisdom, Velo noted that at the end of the Crayon-Bow, you’ll find a pot of vintage gold ochre Crayola!

Click through to the interactive version for a larger view with mouseover color names!

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