I was originally interested in the topic of color blindness when working at my contract job the user interface for a game. If not for one of the game designers being red-green colorblind I would have never started thinking about how color blindness affects a player’s perception of a game let alone how it affects one’s day to day life. As I continued to focus on creating a color blind mode for the game, I encountered a few misconceptions that most people have about color blindness. As a designer and with friends who are also colorblind, I struggled to understand what color blindness is and how it affects one’s perception of color.
Color Perception focuses on creating an interactive that presents different scenarios in which people with color blindness have trouble identifying objects. Options are given to users to explain the use of conveying information other than with the use of color and why that is important when locating objects.
The outcome of my work will provide a platform of awareness for color blindness and provide inclusivity to this hidden disability- specifically now that there are many more scenarios where color is a tool for conveying information, compared with one or two decades ago.
This project was advised by Jeong Kim, a user interface and interaction design professor at SJSU, Cary Feria, a psychology professor whos research interests are in the fields of visual perception and visual cognition and Connie Hwang, thesis instructor and design professor at SJSU.
What is color blindness?
Color blindness often happens when someone cannot distinguish between certain colors. It is also known as color deficiency. The colors most commonly associated with color blindness are red, green and blue.
In the retina, there are two types of cells that detect light. They are called rods and cones. Rods detect only light and dark and are very sensitive to low light levels. Cone cells detect color and are concentrated near the center of your vision. There are three types of cones that see color: red, green and blue. The brain uses input from these cone cells to determine our color perception.
Ishihara 38 plates color vision deficiency test
Types of color blindness
There are 3 different types of color blindness, red, green and blue color blind. With each different type of color blindness there is also a range of how severe the color blindness is, ranging from weak to severe.
The Red-Green Color Deficiencies
The most common color vision deficiency, this affects more men than women. People have difficulty in distinguishing between different shades of red, green and yellow. Either they all appear to be a similar color, appear dull or can only be distinguished by slightly different brightness and intensity. They may even confuse red with black. Shades of purple will appear blue as you won’t be able to see the red component in them.
Deuteranopia (green blind) And
Deuteranomaly (green weak)
Deuteranopes are more likely to confuse:
1. Mid-reds with mid-greens
2. Blue-greens with grey and mid-pinks
3. Bright greens with yellows
4. Pale pinks with light grey
5. Mid-reds with mid-brown
6. Light blues with lilac
Protanopia (red blind) And
Protanomaly (red weak)
Protanopes are more likely to confuse:
1. Black with many shades of red
2. Dark brown with dark green, dark orange and dark red
2. Some blues with some reds, purples and dark pinks
3. Mid-greens with some oranges
Tritanopia (blue blind) And
Tritanomaly (blue weak)
Tritanopes are more likely to confuse:
1. Mostly purples and reddish-browns.
2. Some blue-greens.
3. The lighter yellows/oranges/pinks.
4. Light purples, light greens, with gray.
5. Bright greens with yellows
Interviews and surveys
In addition to my research, I conducted a survey asking friends, friends of friends and the internet a few questions regarding color blindness. These questions touched base on what color blindness they have, what colors they have a hard time seeing (so that I could compare it to my research), what objects they have trouble locating as well as their thoughts on what they wish educators and peers knew about color blindness to help with conveying information.
I created a survey via Google Forms to collect information regarding color blindness. Examples of some of the questions I asked survey participants are shown above.
Responses from survey
What do you have trouble identifying?
What do you wish educators/ peers knew about colorblindness to help with conveying information?
After the end of my research my goal was to create an interactive that presents different scenarios in which people with colorblindness have trouble identifying objects. Options are given to users to explain the use of conveying information other than with the use of color and why that is important when locating objects.
They will learn that color should not be the main way to convey information and about which colors get confused with which in different colorblindness. It will teach people how to better identify and locate objects with these considerations in mind.
To learn more about the thought process behind each level and the initial ideation for the interactive feel free to check out my process book below.
Try it out!
This video features an entire walkthrough of the interactive. Feel free to try the interactive out for yourself