Evaluating Colour in Concept Diagrams

Sean McGrath, Andrew Blake, Gem Stapleton, Anestis Touloumis, Peter Chapman, Mateja Jamnik, Zohreh Shams

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


This paper is the first to establish the impact of colour on users’ ability to interpret the informational content of concept diagrams, a logic designed for ontology engineering. Motivation comes from results for Euler diagrams, which form a fragment of concept diagrams: manipulating curve colours affects user performance. In particular, using distinct curve colours yields significant performance benefits in Euler diagrams. Naturally, one would expect to obtain similar empirical results for concept diagrams, since colour is a graphical feature to which we are perceptually sensitive. Thus, this paper sets out to test this expectation by conducting a crowdsourced empirical study involving 261 participants. Our study suggests that manipulating curve colours no longer yields significant performance differences in this syntactically richer logic. Consequently, when using colour to visually group syntactic elements with common semantic properties, we ask how different do the elements’ shapes need to be in order for there to be significant performance benefits arising from using colours?
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sept 2022
EventDiagrams 2022: 13th International Conference on the Theory and Application of Diagrams - Rome, Italy
Duration: 13 Sept 202217 Sept 2022


ConferenceDiagrams 2022
Internet address

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was partially funded by a Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant (RPG-2016–082) for the project entitled Accessible Reasoning with Diagrams. Thanks to Eisa Alharbi for supplying experimental materials, associated with [2], on which some of our materials were based.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, Springer Nature Switzerland AG.


  • concept diagrams
  • Euler diagrams
  • perception
  • colour


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