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Patterns for the Color Blind
September 28, 2009 6:44 AM   Subscribe

About 8% of the male population has some sort of color vision deficiency. The color blind are unable to clearly distinguish different colors of the spectrum, they tend to see colors in a limited range of hues. Because of this, the color blind have trouble with a lot of websites. The patterns and examples on We Are Color Blind help developers create websites the color deficient can use with minimal problems. Take a color vision test to see where you stand. 50 facts about color blindness.
posted by netbros (93 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Are you sure you meant to post this to Metatalk? I don't see how this is Metafilter-related.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:53 AM on September 28, 2009 [51 favorites]


I was just talking about this with a colorblind coworker. In fact, the diagrams and spectra we were drawing are still on my whiteboard. It was brought up because he mentioned colorblindness-correcting glasses and I was incredulous that such a thing could exist, or work well if it did.
posted by DU at 6:57 AM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


That's the first time I've got 100% in a test that didn't involve naming cartoon characters...
posted by twine42 at 7:00 AM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hey, if you want to know about color blindness, take it to the red, buddy.
posted by idiopath at 7:00 AM on September 28, 2009 [11 favorites]


I see dead people.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:04 AM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


But, seriously, my brother mentioned happening upon MetaFilter while looking for food advice for his cat. I asked him if it was on AskMe and he didn't remember, so I asked him if the page was colored green, and he replied "I'm pretty sure the page was colored red".
posted by idiopath at 7:05 AM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've always considered myself very mildly colorblind - when my cousin wore a "Fuck the colorblind" dots shirt to his dad's wake, I couldn't tell what it said until someone told me. But I got 30/31 on that test. I discovered that if I look away from the grid, or keep the grid near the bottom of the screen, I could see at least a shadow of what I was supposed to see. Interesting.
posted by notsnot at 7:06 AM on September 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Interesting. I did very well on the test, but only because it was multiple choice. If I'd been asked to describe what I saw without any hints, I would have failed a lot of them.

This is why I almost never buy khaki pants. I can never quite tell what color they really are, and I wind up convinced that something is green or grey when actually it's brown or purple.
posted by hermitosis at 7:06 AM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm having a fun time imagining people taking that color vision test, considering just how horribly off most people's monitors are, in terms of color accuracy.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:08 AM on September 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm colorblind. I've discovered the only people who care about colorblindness are those who aren't colorblind.
posted by tommasz at 7:12 AM on September 28, 2009 [9 favorites]


i had weierd things happenning to my color vison last april so I seed the doctor and he juts clicked "make it stop"LOL.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:12 AM on September 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Mmmph. I got a perfect score on the colour test, but it relied a lot on agreeing with the colour names listed. I don't think it would make a huge difference in diagnosing someone as colourblind, but it might skew scores a bit.
posted by maudlin at 7:14 AM on September 28, 2009


Does anyone recall a Discovery Channel program on the evolution of the eye? I think the series was on evolution of various body systems. This particular program argued that the almost-unique among highest primates capacity to see red as a vivid color was an evolutionary adaptation for finding the ripest, sweetest, most Calorie-laden fruits.
posted by jefficator at 7:15 AM on September 28, 2009


The first time I spoke in a year is when I found out I was colorblind and couldn't fulfill my dream of being a jet pilot.

Wait? Was that me? I have an unrelated condition where I cannot distinguish my experiences from those of characters in films.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:16 AM on September 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


Those are some fascinating pages, especially the one on designing diagrams and pages so that colour-blind ("colour vision deficient") people can see them.

This actually came up at a biology conference I attended a few years ago. It's very common to show microscope photos with different features in the cell labelled in green, red and blue, with overlaps showing as areas of the seconday/tertiary colours. One speaker took a few minutes out of his talk to point out that about 12% of men in the audience must have a really tough time working out what's going on in many of these pictures. Half the data in my next paper will be a sea of red and green blobs; maybe I should persuade the journal to let me false-colour the images?

It should be applied to luggage as well: my dad is red-green colourblind and once got most of the way out of an airport before realising that the (green) suitcase he was carrying wasn't the (red) one that actually belonged to him. Hilarity (and, nearly, police involvement) ensued.
posted by metaBugs at 7:17 AM on September 28, 2009


notsnot: That's because everyone's peripheral vision is color-blind. The color-seeing cones are concentrated in the fovial region of the retina, whereas the peripheral parts of the retina are mostly rods, which can't see color. See here, for instance.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 7:21 AM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


The first time I saw the statistic it was that 15% males were color blind. I speculate they go into management where the consequences of not seeing what is in multivariate data are not so obvious, and that they are mostly in the closet about their vision handicap. To me this explains a great deal about the content of corporate decision making. I have only met one male in twenty years who admitted on the job he was color blind.
posted by bukvich at 7:22 AM on September 28, 2009


We didn't get fooled by this one.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 7:25 AM on September 28, 2009


What are they trying to get at by testing me for colourblindness and asking me if I see a box as "1 pink box (skin colour)"?
posted by molecicco at 7:26 AM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


...One speaker took a few minutes out of his talk to point out that about 12% of men in the audience...
Oops, my mistake. I must have got confused between 8% and "1 in 12".
posted by metaBugs at 7:29 AM on September 28, 2009


My dad's colorblind (blue/purple is a problem along with most shades of green/gray/khaki/brown) and he's also a graphic artist who makes system maps for a transit authority. I always felt very important when he'd call me in to ask if such-and-such body of water was blue as intended, or hilariously purple. I can't wait to forward this to him and make him take the test.
posted by Neofelis at 7:30 AM on September 28, 2009


One of my first big speced-out websites was for this client who was constantly fussing about the colors, pushing everything towards a mostly-lavender scheme with some insistence on outlines and bolding. It was a few days before I realized that he had some kind of color deficiency, but wasn't letting me know about it. That project didn't go too well.
posted by adipocere at 7:31 AM on September 28, 2009


If you're curious as to what the web looks like to someone with colorblindness, you can give the colorblind web page filter a go. Via.
posted by kosher_jenny at 7:33 AM on September 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm colorblind. I've discovered the only people who care about colorblindness are those who aren't colorblind.

I've lost count of the number of times I've told someone that I'm colourblind only to have them point to their or my shirt or to some extremely obvious solid colour and ask me what colour it is and then act surprised when I get it right. It's pretty annoying.
posted by ob at 7:35 AM on September 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


A colorblind friend of mine got in trouble with his partner when he brought home a Christmas tree that he'd bought on sale. He was so proud of getting such a good deal. The thing was covered with brown, dry branches on one side.

My favorite encounter with a colorblind person happened in a bookstore--I'd written a check for my books using a red pen, which I probably shouldn't have done, but it was the first pen I grabbed out of my purse. I handed the female clerk my check and she said I hadn't filled it out. I was completely weirded out and said that I had, and we went back and forth with this a couple times before it finally hit me--I looked at the blue-green background on the check and said, "Are you colorblind?" Bingo. We both had a good laugh.
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:40 AM on September 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


I wonder if color blindness in males is an evolutionary trait, given that most males in the animal kingdom are more brightly-colored than the females.

Then I wonder why I have theories on evolution and biology when I have no real schooling in the subjects.

Then I go watch TV.
posted by xingcat at 7:44 AM on September 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


One of those tests isn't going to have a loud screaming zombie pop up on me when I click to finish, will it?
posted by Burhanistan at 7:46 AM on September 28, 2009


I passed, but the test, but I think the test has language translation and cultural problems.

On question 16, the correct answer has the box three over and two down as "pink" when it's (to my vision, on my monitor) beige.

In question 24 that he clarifies that a similar color (2 over, top row) is "pink (skin color)". That info (skin color) allowed me to correctly get 16.
posted by zippy at 7:48 AM on September 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


“What color is this?” is the most annoying question you can ask your colorblind friend.

Phew. I was worried that my vigorous program of "Does this bother you? Does this bother you? Does this bother you? Does this bother you? Does this bother you? I'm not touching you. Does this bother you? Does this bother you? Do you like gladiator movies?" in a high nasal screech might have been the most annoying thing ever.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:51 AM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


My oldest brother is colorblind. He wanted to to join the Air Force and become a pilot but the whole colorblind thing put the kibosh on that. Once, during my wayward youth, I came home for Thanksgiving, and he said something to me about how adult I looked, and he was glad that I didn't still have a mohawk or anything. I didn't have the heart to tell him that my normal men's haircut hair was blue.
posted by dirtdirt at 7:59 AM on September 28, 2009 [11 favorites]


It's cool that there are some colour patterns that only color-blind people can detect.
posted by No Robots at 8:06 AM on September 28, 2009


On question 16, the correct answer has the box three over and two down as "pink" when it's (to my vision, on my monitor) beige.

I don't know how to tell you this . . . but that's definitely pink.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:09 AM on September 28, 2009


I don't know how to tell you this . . . but that's definitely pink.

"That's definitely pink" in the sense that "beige is pink, so it definitely is correct to call it pink", or in the sense that "that's not beige at all, not even close, it's bright flaming pink"?

Because I see it as a beige as well.
posted by splice at 8:17 AM on September 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


Yay! I totally passed the test! Although, despite the fact that I am closing in on 30 years old, I still cannot read the phrase "rods and cones" without snickering.

Adolescent-colored humor test: FAIL.
posted by hegemone at 8:18 AM on September 28, 2009


Running the test through the color blind filter kosher jenny mentioned is kind of neat, but slow
posted by TedW at 8:20 AM on September 28, 2009


On question 16, the correct answer has the box three over and two down as "pink" when it's (to my vision, on my monitor) beige.

I don't know how to tell you this . . . but that's definitely pink.


Well...sort of. I keep my system tightly calibrated and that particular box can easily be interpreted in either direction. Especially since, elsewhere in the test, "pink" is defined differently. Then, there is the part of the test where the correct answer refers to "2 purple boxes". The two boxes are not the same color. They both could definitely be called "purple", but they are completely different tones of purple.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:22 AM on September 28, 2009


My colorblindness story:

I took an art-history class with about 200 other people in college. It was one of those classes into which everyone not taking art-history as their major gets shuffled in order to fulfill some graduation requirements.

I sat in the back row usually, because I walked from across campus from another class scheduled very close to this one. The class consisted of the teacher showing slides and indicating important features. Tests consisted of the same slide presentation where we would regurgitate the important features.

On a particular test I failed to mention anything at all about a very large banner in the mosaic at the top of the photo. This was because the mosaic was invisible to me, being similarly-colored as the rest of the tiles as far as I could tell.

When I mentioned that I didn't mention this because it's invisible to colorblind people (which was heartily seconded by a large percentage of the other males in the class) what was her solution?

Sit closer next time.
posted by odinsdream at 8:24 AM on September 28, 2009


I'm red/green colorblind, and I do a lot of graphic design on the side.

In real life, it's not a problem at all (other than not being able to see the numbers in those stinking dot tests). In design it's a drag because I always have to get other people to vet my color choices; I have issues with blue/black/purple and green/brown/pink. Tints and hues are a bitch.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:33 AM on September 28, 2009


I don't need to do the test - I found out I was colour blind the harder way - in school. The first time was when - no joke - during a class where we had been asked by the teacher to colour in a Christmas scene. After a while the teacher asked me why I was making Santa Claus green. I had no idea.

After a while to avoid anymore embarrassing mishaps with coloured pencils I developed an elaborate marking system (carved into the pencil), so that I could always tell what pencil I was using. I had to ask my mother to tell me which colour was which (red, green, brown, orange, blue, purple were the main colours that caused problems) as I couldn't trust anyone else not to tell me the wrong thing.

I have driven through red lights, I have had to ask colleagues to re-send colour-coded spreadsheets, and I always have to ask my wife to tell me when the camera battery-charger has changed from red to green.

Of all the things about colour blindness that shit me, it's the laziness of interface designers. Using red and green to indicate a change in state is just about the stupidest, laziest most thoughtless thing a designer can do, but they do it all the fucking time.

People like to talk about how great Apple is at design. Take a close at the flashing status lights on an Airport Extreme base station and think very hard about what a colour blind person would take away from those lights. If you can't take the time to figure it out - the answer is Fuck All.

That said, I saw last week an article about how someone had "cured" colour-blindness in mice. If that option was available to me, I wouldn't take it. I'm colour blind and I'm fine. There are much worse things.
posted by awfurby at 8:37 AM on September 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Funny, it seems that i become colorblind if i tilt my notebook's screen back -- but not forward. I must be cyborg..
posted by 3mendo at 8:58 AM on September 28, 2009


The pink/beige/skin color thing threw me as well (so did seeing the word "box" so much. Now it looks weird - box box box box box), and while I'm perfectly happy to blame the confusion on my monitor, I've also had hilarious discussions with birders about whether a bird's legs (or bill) are pink or orange, or pink or yellow.
posted by rtha at 8:58 AM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


My son is mildly colorblind - as is one of my brothers, yay genetics. My son was tested in kindergarten and they sent home a booklet called Colorblindness and You or some such thing. I was horrified and worried and I called all my family and friends and they were all horrified and worried and we proceeded to give my son a series of ridiculous tests that went on and on: Describe the sky for me. Can you see that tree? What about that one? What about the river? What does the dog look like? until finally one of my friends looked at me and said, "You know, if he'd been born into any other family than this crazy one of artists, nobody would care." And that has proven to be the case.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:03 AM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


The easy rule of design is: don't use color as the only thing that distinguishes two pieces of information. And a simple test is: print the screen on a black and white printer, and make sure you can still see all the important information.

And red chalk on green blackboards never worked for me in school.

~Matt
posted by mdoar at 9:04 AM on September 28, 2009


DU, I enjoyed that link about glasses for "correcting" colorblindness. It makes me wonder if anyone has ever tried to apply the same principle to simulate tetrachromatic vision in people with normal color perception. For example, lenses that are more transparent to violet (380–420 nm) light than other wavelengths should allow you to tell the difference between true violet light and the mixture of red and blue used to simulate violet on computer displays.
posted by shponglespore at 9:05 AM on September 28, 2009


This particular program argued that the almost-unique among highest primates capacity to see red as a vivid color was an evolutionary adaptation for finding the ripest, sweetest, most Calorie-laden fruits.

That's Mollon's "cherries among the leaves" hypothesis for the evolution of our third color receptor. It's the most widely-held view. But there's an alternate account that I like: we evolved the ability to see red in order to identify young leaves on trees, which are more nutritious than mature leaves. Trees have an interest in not letting their young leaves be eaten, so they disguised them in a way that made them look like old leaves to our dichromat ancestors by making them dark. Full trichromacy let us distinguish the young leaves and dead leaves. The "cherries among the leaves" hypothesis is a tale of mutual collaboration between us and plants; the "leaves among the leaves" hypothesis is an evolutionary arms race and a tale of war.
posted by painquale at 9:08 AM on September 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


What a refreshingly different test to take. I'm more used to the circular multi color patches though.

"What? You mean there's a figure in there? Quit pulling my leg! That's just an abstract set of dots.... Oh."
posted by cavalier at 9:21 AM on September 28, 2009


Perfect color vision. Go me!
posted by stenseng at 9:22 AM on September 28, 2009


(puts stenseng on the list)
posted by cavalier at 9:25 AM on September 28, 2009


My father's colorblind. Like all people with normal color vision, when the subject of colors comes up around him, I become a colossal jackass. I hold things up and ask him what color they are, I make him pick "the red one." Somehow, I can't stop doing this even as he throws his hands up and say "I don't know, they all look brownish blue."

Anyway, his color blindness has been a hindrance twice. Once, we were driving in Boston, where apparently they have some traffic lights which are oriented sideways, instead of up and down. Having no idea which side was green and which was red, I had to help him navigate until he could remember. The other time was when we were going to build a fence for the backyard, and had the power company mark the power lines underneath the grass. Naturally, they did it in red.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:29 AM on September 28, 2009


Naturally, they did it in red.

Odd - precisely because of that, they're supposed to use yellow.
posted by FormlessOne at 9:33 AM on September 28, 2009


What a refreshingly different test to take.

It has the same problem that most web tests do -- on paper, with good color control, it can be quite accurate, but on the web, where you have no idea what color space the remote monitor is displaying and how well it displays it, it become much less accurate.

The Department of Optometry and Visual Science at City University, London, has come out with a different test. Unlike most tests, it doesn't attempt to tell what color (well, colour) deficiency you have, it merely tries to tell if you have one, by cycling through a very large pallet.

The test itself is quite easy. You run it. You'll see a moving colored dot. If the dot disappears at any point of the test, there's a good chance that you have a color deficiency, and you should have it checked further.

You do need a monitor that's reasonably bright and has a reasonably wide gamut, but since the test doesn't depend on two confusing colors being displayed exactly to determine if you are having a problem, it can be well off calibration and the test will still work.

With a calibrated monitor, you could use this test to determine what deficiency you have, but for the purposes of a web test, it's far better to have a test that works in detecting color deficiency issue, and has little chance of a false negative, than to actually determine the exact nature of the problem -- that's better done at the office with trained staff and calibrated test materials.
posted by eriko at 9:41 AM on September 28, 2009


My problem is that I can't see colorblind people. They sort of just blend into the background of whatever I'm looking at. When I went to try and join the Air Force, they turned me down because I couldn't see the recruiter who was trying to talk to me.
posted by otolith at 9:46 AM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Neat! Next, you'll tell me there is always a moving blob on the movie. Shenanigans!
posted by cavalier at 9:46 AM on September 28, 2009


notsnot: when my cousin wore a "Fuck the colorblind" dots shirt to his dad's wake, I couldn't tell what it said until someone told me. But I got 30/31 on that test.

Wait, someone wore a "Fuck the colorblind" shirt to their father's WAKE?
posted by Theta States at 10:09 AM on September 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


I got a perfect score. Take that, two colourblind guys in my colour photo class whose colour balance was always better than mine!
posted by Sys Rq at 10:19 AM on September 28, 2009


They kept referring to the color beige as "pink," which it isn't at all. When I analyze the color they called "pink" (twice, I might add), on an RGB scale, it is R:251, G:181, B:100. That is beige (perhaps "desert sand" or "ecru.") Pink, on the other hand, according to the Wikipedia, is approximately R:255, G:192, B:203. You will notice the big difference is that green and blue are approximately equal, with perhaps more blue. Pink is essentially red with white added. What they had has much more green than blue, pulling it into another shade entirely.

In an attempt to further explore this plate of beans, I have put together a little visual demonstration here: This is Beige, Not Pink.
posted by MythMaker at 10:31 AM on September 28, 2009 [10 favorites]


"I have driven through red lights...I'm colour blind and I'm fine."

That actually sounds pretty frightening to me. I don't think there's anything wrong with you, but it's alarming that we haven't bothered to devise a traffic light system that's more accommodating of such a common deficiency. You might be fine, but I'm guessing you're aware of the issue and a little more careful than others.

My boyfriend is also mildly colorblind, but it's something he never really confirmed until grad school. He'd had suspicions, but until some color-coded games started to seriously trip him up (not being able to distinguish at all between certain shades of green, brown, or yellow), the severity of the issue had never occurred to him. Thankfully, it doesn't come up all that often, but I can't help but wonder if there are others who don't realize how compromised their color sight is, especially if they're driving.


On a lighter note, once we were aware of the problem, some of his, uh, sartorial choices started to make a bit more sense. I now reserve the right of fashion veto.
posted by Diagonalize at 10:36 AM on September 28, 2009


I'm colourblind (red/green), and I am so getting one of those T-shirts (even though I can actually read it).
posted by Elmore at 10:53 AM on September 28, 2009


It's not pink, indeed. But it sure as hell ain't beige either. It's light orange.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:57 AM on September 28, 2009


Yep, it's light, warm orange with a nice balance between citrus and biscuit.

And don't get me started on Ikea calling my new sheets "beige" when they're actually "pale antique gold".
posted by maudlin at 11:25 AM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Do you know how to tell that you're not colourblind? You argue about what's beige, what's pink and what's light orange.
posted by ob at 11:28 AM on September 28, 2009


Conversely, I only found out a few years ago that purple didn't have to be a dark colour. My wife asked me to fetch her "the purple towel". There were two, one was a sort of weird light blue something and the other was dark but not black. I chose the latter. I was wrong. That really threw me for a loop. Now I'm not really sure what purple is any more.
posted by ob at 11:32 AM on September 28, 2009


It's not pink, indeed. But it sure as hell ain't beige either. It's light orange.

Before I knew I was colourblind I had an argument with my cousin about white skin not being white at all, but actually green. She claimed it was pink. This was probably why some of the impact of the Hulk TV show was lost on me.
posted by Elmore at 11:40 AM on September 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


ob, purple is actually worse for me than the reds browns and greens, mostly. I find it very hard to distinguish a purple from a blue, and I think the drawings I did as a kid with purple skies was what tipped my Dad off about my colourblindness.

That said, the brown and red balls on a snooker table being almost identical, and the utter insanity of using an orange golf ball, does make those games kind of frustrating.

I'd love if more game developers added a colourblind mode the way that PopCap have with Peggle (pity about Zuma, 'cause it sucks balls). Resident Evil 4 would have been so much more fun if I had the option of changing the laser sight on that murkey brown/green background white or blue or yellow or anything but red.
posted by Elmore at 11:49 AM on September 28, 2009


Now I'm not really sure what purple is any more.

ROYGBIV-ly speaking, any colour can have any light/dark value.

That said, you can probably go and tell your wife that the towel is mauve, dammit.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:51 AM on September 28, 2009


I'm white-on-blue colorblind. What hell is this post about?
posted by chairface at 11:52 AM on September 28, 2009


Oh yeah, and what the fuck is Indigo?
posted by Elmore at 11:55 AM on September 28, 2009


I'm white-on-blue colorblind. What hell is this post about?

Email one of the mods and ask them to change your preferences to 'professional white'. Sorted.
posted by Elmore at 11:57 AM on September 28, 2009


Diagonalize: Traffic lights ARE designed for the colorblind. They are always in the same top-down or left-right order: red, yellow, green. The traffic system is actually a great example of a visual information system done right.
posted by chairface at 12:02 PM on September 28, 2009


Diagonalize: Traffic lights ARE designed for the colorblind.

Most red-green color blind sufferers see green traffic lights as white-tinted.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:04 PM on September 28, 2009


Diagonalize: Traffic lights ARE designed for the colorblind. They are always in the same top-down or left-right order: red, yellow, green.

Not always.
posted by Elmore at 12:05 PM on September 28, 2009


Oh yeah, and what the fuck is Indigo?

In Canada, it's a book store.

Seriously, though, it's a deep, sometimes slightly purplish, blue. Confused yet?

Jeans are dyed with indigo (well, they used to be, but now they're dyed synthetically), as is blue glass.

Indiglow watches are nothing like indigo.

ROYGBIV is a bit fucked, though, because of that blue/indigo shit. The blue in RGB? That's ROYGBIV indigo. ROYGBIV blue is CMYK cyan. It's crazy that ROYGBIV is still a thing we teach kids.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:08 PM on September 28, 2009


http://tinyurl.com/msbwyh

Really interesting paper by Mark Changizi on the origins of trichromatic vision. Short version is that red/green is for analyzing skin tone for health reasons. Facts that support this:

1) Red and Green are *right* next to eachother
2) They are on either side of the "w" in the spectral curve for all skin tones except southeast asian
3) In primates w/ color vision, the skin is bare. In primates w/o color vision, the skin is furry.

This came up in another thread, so I won't re-write all of it, but the paper's really quite cool.
posted by effugas at 12:48 PM on September 28, 2009


This is always interesting to me.

As best we can tell, my sister is some combination of at least two types of colorblind, rendering her for most purposes a form of monochromatic colorblind that makes everything shades of some color she doesn't have a word for that isn't black and white. Yet she has amazing shade and hue recognition, better than anyone else I know - she's a professional web dev and graphics designer.

The interesting thing is, my color vision is perfectly normal, other than I can see colors in much lower light levels than other people, and my brother is annoyingly normal in terms of his color vision. As such, we are at a total loss to explain my sister. Which really... is probably what most older sisters say about younger ones anyway.
posted by strixus at 12:49 PM on September 28, 2009


Most red-green color blind sufferers see green traffic lights as white-tinted.

If done right, the green should also be much "brighter" than the red in general, to help those folks by differing by brightness, too.

Bright Red or Bright Green? No problemo.

Low contrast or otherwise darker red/green/brown/blue/purple? @#)%( me.
posted by cavalier at 12:50 PM on September 28, 2009


Also, I take this is the "blue" with the same grain of salt when people tell me something is purple, or indigo, or what have you. Also, the post comment and preview buttons? What color are they, orange? No don't actually screen grab and eyedrop it -- that was rhetorical.. :P
posted by cavalier at 12:52 PM on September 28, 2009


Does anyone have stats on trichromacity where M and L cones are just too close to one another, instead of there not being L cones?
posted by effugas at 1:04 PM on September 28, 2009


I've been waiting for a post about the colorblind to show up on this site here in the orange.
posted by Mach5 at 1:44 PM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]




My standard contribution to the annual posting on colour deficiency: The Brewer Palette (by Cynthia Brewer), a sequence of colours (and shades within those) that can be used for any kind of chart, graph, map, or other progression where everybody has to be able to tell that the colour varies among items.

First published in cartography journals; publicized in my first book; handily available at WCAG Samurai.
posted by joeclark at 2:04 PM on September 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thanks Joeclark. I began reading the chapter from your book thinking it would be good to show my mum and my girlfriend and then got really engrossed in it. Pleasantly readable too.
posted by Elmore at 2:32 PM on September 28, 2009


I'm not color-blind (31/31 without even pausing to read closely, just "obvious" answers, including the racist one), but I do see slightly different colors/tints through my two eyes. One is blue-tinted and one is yellow-tinted, exactly like a monitor with two different white points, one cool and one warm.

It's obvious enough with a plain white wall, but it impacts everything slightly. It's never been a problem, though, and I even used it as a sort of feature back when I was a full-time graphic designer person: my own highly portable multi-light testing gave me a good idea how something would look in sunlight or under fluorescent light... just as quick as a wink.
posted by rokusan at 3:49 PM on September 28, 2009


Ubuntu mentored a GSoC project a few years back to construct a color filter for compiz. The result is Colorfilter, and you can use it to do a couple things: simulate colorblindness of the various sorts, and some color rotation schemes to aid the colorblind in overcoming short sighted graphics and software.

It uses some fancy pixelshaders so you need 3d hardware (already a necessity for compiz anyways).
posted by pwnguin at 4:20 PM on September 28, 2009


ob: Do you know how to tell that you're not colourblind? You argue about what's beige, what's pink and what's light orange.

At least that's better than trying to figure out what color "Antelope Firemist" is.
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:16 PM on September 28, 2009


It's not easy seeing green.
posted by wabbittwax at 5:52 PM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


My dad is colourblind, and it's led to some pretty funny situations. He used to be one of those 3-piece-suit wearing executive sorts, and my mom would always make sure that everything he wore went together. She went on a trip for a week, so she laid out a series of shirt/tie combinations for him to last for the week. All week, he gets mocked by his co-workers for for the garish colour combinations he was wearing. (It was the late 70's, everyone was wearing pastel shirts and stripey ties) The last day of the week, totally pissed at my mom for making a fool of him, he realizes that he's one tie short. He takes a look around and finds a tie on the floor, but not near where the shirt was laid out. Turns out that he had dropped the first day's tie, and accidentally grabbed the second day's tie, and every set was off for the rest of the week.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:42 PM on September 28, 2009


"Dude... wouldn't it be weird if, like, my green was your orange?"

Ah Locke's old inverted spectrum (a subset of inverted qualia in general).
posted by TedW at 6:49 AM on September 29, 2009


"Estimate of color vision deficiency's probability:99%
deuteranopia indicator:49%
deuteranomaly indicator: 0%
protanopia indicator: 79%
protanomaly indicator: 0%
tritanopia indicator: 38%
tritanomaly indicator: 0%"


Quite accurate. I'm highly impressed. Most of these online tests have difficulty narrowing down my odd mix. I did fudge some of the answers because the so-called "yellow boxes" didn't look it to me.

I can't see purple at all. I can see the other bright primary and secondary colors clearly if they're really vivid. But the moment they fade into pastels, I have a lot of trouble.

Burhanistan: Most red-green color blind sufferers see green traffic lights as white-tinted.

I do. I'm always hyper-vigilant when driving at night because the green traffic lights can blend in with the street lights here in NYC.

My grandfather was as colorblind than I am. Didn't stop him from being an artist. He used to work for a firm where he helped create ad campaigns for movies, including posters and print ads. Every one of his colored pencil and markers was carefully labeled. When I was a kid, I watched him go through the same routine with my grandmother, again and again.

"Isn't that a great color? Beautiful. Evocative. What color would you say that is?"
"It's blue, Al."
"Yes, but what shade of blue would you say it is?"
"It's sky blue, Al."

The "handicap" served him well in WWII.
posted by zarq at 2:14 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Turns out that he had dropped the first day's tie, and accidentally grabbed the second day's tie, and every set was off for the rest of the week.

I feel his pain.

My wife tells a story.... The first time she visited me for the weekend, I left the closet door open in my room. She peered in and saw my work clothes and had a bit of a surprise.

5 blue dress shirts. No pattern. All the same shade. All the same style.
5 red dress shirts. No pattern. All the same shade. All the same style.
5 brown dress shirts. No pattern. All the same shade. All the same style.
5 navy blue dress shirts. No pattern. All the same shade. All the same style.
5 plain white dress shirts. All the same style.

Matching ties hanging with the shirts.

Several pairs of black dockers and slacks. Black dress shoes. Black belts. Several dark suits.

How does a single person who is colorblind dress themselves without embarrassment? Simplicity and help. I used to buy all my suits, shirts and ties at Mens Wearhouse. The good folks there helped me pick out matching ties, and I literally used to label them.

My wife jokes that she took me from a very drab existence (or at least wardrobe) and brightened things up a bit. Shirts, pants and shoes in a wider variety of patterns and colors. But it's made dressing myself solo a bit harder.
posted by zarq at 2:27 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Another good story - as a kid it was my job to polish my dad's shoes every few months. Being lazy, I'd do them all quickly and dump them back in his closet. One day he comes home from work in a very foul mood, because he'd been wearing 2 different shoes all day. One was brown, and one was burgundy. He'd bought 2 pairs that were identical except for the colour, and since I hadn't paired them up, and he couldn't see the difference, he had no idea they were mixed up. Not only was he pissed that he'd worn the wrong shoes, but he was appalled that all this time we'd been letting him wear red shoes. My mom and tried to convince him that the burgundy shoes were really nice, but we were laughing too hard to really be believed. He never wore them again!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:59 PM on September 29, 2009


Sys Rq: I think we teach kids ROYGBIV because it tells you the order of colors in the spectrum, not just which color is which.
posted by obliquicity at 6:49 PM on September 29, 2009


I think we teach kids ROYGBIV because it tells you the order of colors in the spectrum, not just which color is which.

Yeah, but then it comes back around to "What the fuck is indigo?" / "It's blue." / "Then what's this blue?" / "Cyan."

Personally, I'd prefer some consistency in the nomenclature, is all.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:05 PM on September 29, 2009


Personally, I'd prefer some consistency in the nomenclature, is all.
posted by Sys Rq


"The sky sure is a beautiful 68, -12, -105 today."
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:16 AM on September 30, 2009


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