UNDERSTANDING COLOR BLINDNESS
Updated: Mar 12
This is an article “Understanding Color Blindness” by Marc Primo Warren
Today, an estimated 300 million people all over the world are said to be color blind. But what exactly is this visual deficiency and why is it important for people to understand it? First of all, this inherited condition is either a disease or injury that damages the eye’s optic nerve or retina to cause a loss in color recognition. Men are more prone to color blindness than women with a whopping 95% of males suffering from it.
In order to understand how we can work with those with the condition, here are a few things we need to understand first.
3 types of color blindness
Inherited or congenital color vision deficiency (CVD) is categorized by three types: monochromacy, which is considered as total color blindness because color and light are reduced to only one dimension; dichromacy, which is the most common form of color deficiency and manifests through a mix up of red and green colors; and trichromacy, wherein one of the three cone pigments in the eye changes in spectral sensitivity.
People who have Protanopia, or the condition where there’s an absence of red in the eyes’ photoreceptors, usually can’t distinguish blue from purple while those with Deuteranopia cannot see any green hues on visual images. The last type, Tritanopia, disables the distinction between blue and yellow.
Color accessibility in design
Marketing designers who have studied how they can effectively reach those who are color blind certainly don’t want to exclude CVD sufferers from experiencing things normally. Though just a small percentage of the overall global market, designing for accessibility is a real thing that helps people appreciate both aesthetics and brand elements of marketing collaterals. To simply put everything into perspective, eight individuals out of a hundred that visit a website usually see elements of the design differently due to color blindness.
With this, designers still rely on combining colors and symbols to convey their messages more effectively. What happens is an approach wherein the color blind can associate what they see to easily recall and understand every other context associated with the brand.
Patterns and contrast
Most designers who produce color accessible materials also use different textures rather than colors to convey messages. Captain Obvious would be quick to point out that colorful charts and graphs are a no-no for those who are color blind, so the next best thing to use are patterns and texture. This similarly works with how the blind use Braille only with the inclusion of pattern designs that help CVD sufferers get more context out of an image.
However, it’s also important to note that designers should be very careful when applying contrast in color adjustments and should experiment with other hues aside from monochromatic black and whites. This also goes in picking out which colors should go well together when designing for the color blind, especially as they can see things differently.
Most designers would also recommend refraining from using such color combos as green/red; blue/purple; blue/grey; and green/black as these can give those who are color blind huge headaches.
Do you see what I see?
Some people with CVD discover their conditions later on in life because they think that they see things-- all in their colorful glory, as they are. If you’re wondering if you are color blind or not, better take the Ishihara Color Blindness Test, a collection of 38 plates which is considered the most common and reliable test around.
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