May 21, 2013

"Why is Facebook blue?... It’s because Mark Zuckerberg is red-green color blind..."

"... blue is the color Mark can see the best."

That factoid begins an article about the use of color in branding, which does not otherwise involve the topic of designing color images with knowledge of how it looks to people who see some but not all colors. The article gets into assertions about what women like and what men like. Both respond to blue and green and are repelled by orange and brown, but women go for purple, which men don't like, and men like black while women dislike gray. That's sort of interesting, but it's much softer information than the hardcore physical reality of red-green color blindness.

Is there software that lets you check what your design looks like to someone who's red-green color blind? One answer, I guess, is stick to blue. But it seems to me that there are many blues, including blues that lean toward red (before you'd say purple) and blues that lean to yellow (before you'd start calling it green). A person who's not red-green color blind might think that's a really lovely blue at the very point where it might look ugly to a person with red-green color blindness.

I've been thinking about this topic a lot because I've been losing my sense of smell, to the point where I'm smell-blind — anosmic — in some sectors of the sense of smell. It would be one thing to have no sense of smell at all, like complete color blindness. But when you have partial perception, you care about the part that you have, but you'd like a good experience with it, but other people, who may be providing the experience, don't know what it's like for you.

42 comments:

rhhardin said...

Those old orthochromatic pictures will start looking natural.

Red light used to work in darkrooms.

Nowadays there aren't even darkrooms.

C Stanley said...

I've never understood what red and green look like to people with that form of colorblindness. Nor how we can know.

Can folks who are colorblind match up what they see with something else that colorsighted people see? Is it all brown, or gray, or some other neutral...or is it something else entirely that can't be matched or described? And what of the color mixes? Do those purplish blues just look greyed down, so that everything that isn't pure blue or yellow looks muddy, or what?

Matthew Sablan said...

A lot of games have a color-blind mode, and I think the design software one of the designers I worked with had the same, so on the more cutting-edge areas, they do take that into account in their designs. I know one of, I think the GW2 or Secret World animators, mentioned the trouble they had in getting some of the things to look right while still being identifiable to color-blind players.

Matthew Sablan said...

C. Stnaley: I assume that they take either images or actually take the eyes of color blind people after they died to run tests to see how light filters through them. I don't know if this site works: http://colorvisiontesting.com/what%20colorblind%20people%20see.htm since it is blocked at work, but it might be more useful to answer your question.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Are you still able to detect 'safety smells' like the stinky stuff they put in natural gas so you know it's on?

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

When I was seven or so it occurred to me that what I see when I look at the color blue might not be at all what other people see, and that because perception is subjective we'd have no way of knowing. That realization totally creeped me out.

rcommal said...

Ruth Anne: I thought the same thing! "Can she smell mercaptan?"

rcommal said...

More broadly, how do tell when a sense of smell is going away or is altering? I'm actually curious.

Ann Althouse said...

"Are you still able to detect 'safety smells' like the stinky stuff they put in natural gas so you know it's on?"

I need to figure that out.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

There are standardized anosmia tests.

Also, have you considered trigeminal neuralgia?

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Ann, how's your sense of taste? I've read that a lot of how we perceive food is at least as much smell as taste. Do you find yourself enjoying food less than you used to?

Fritz said...

At the relatively young age of 60 I required cataract surgery in one eye and not the other. The new lens is much more transparent in the blue end of the spectrum than the original one in the other eye. Depending on the light, I can change the appearance of a scene by using one eye or the other.

You know that question about whether we all see blue as the same color?

No, we don't.

SeanF said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SeanF said...

Question - wouldn't the correct analogy to an absolute loss of the sense of smell be absolute blindness, rather than just colorblindness?

C Stanley, the wikipedia page on color-blindness includes some example images that purportedly show what different colors "look like" to people with various types of colorblindness, but I can't speak to their accuracy.

It really can't be explained (I am red-green colorblind, by the way). I wouldn't be able to tell you that to me green looks the same as whatever color looks to you, because I have no idea how things look to you. ::shrug::

I generally have no problem distinguishing traffic lights, with the exception that when they have them blinking late at night, it is difficult to distinguish blinking red from blinking yellow.

And I do know that battery chargers which use a single LED that lights up red while charging and green when fully charged are pretty much useless to me. Well, the charger's not useless, but the LED is. :)

Astro said...

People with color blindness can get some help from a program called 'WhatColor'. It's a free download that will identify the color of a spot on the computer screen as you 'mouse over' it.

Btw - red and green just look like the same color to people with red-green color blindness. One of my brothers sometimes confuses a piece of tomato with a piece of green pepper.

People with red-green color blindness are helped by incandescent lighting. The higher red content of incandescent light helps the color contrast between red and green objects.

edutcher said...

Green is wealthy?

Makes me think of green grass and trees.

Ann Althouse said...

I've been thinking about this topic a lot because I've been losing my sense of smell, to the point where I'm smell-blind — anosmic — in some sectors of the sense of smell.

I've had the same problem since I moved to NE OH 17 years ago, but figured it was sinuses.

C Stanley said...

I've never understood what red and green look like to people with that form of colorblindness. Nor how we can know.

Saw an article once where the guy said it all looks like chocolate syrup.

El Pollo Raylan said...

I've been thinking about this topic a lot because I've been losing my sense of smell, to the point where I'm smell-blind — anosmic

You should get yourself checked out, Althouse. That's abnormal. I don't mean to scare you but sometimes such symptoms are early warnings of things down the road.

Chuck Currie said...

Totally off thread -

I find it interesting that men dislike the color purple. Purple is the color of royalty - kings and queens. Purple dye was rare and highly sought after.

Do men dislike it because they dislike royalty, or because it is no longer rare. Or, did they only once like it because it was rare.

Anyway...Cheers

El Pollo Raylan said...

Are you still able to detect 'safety smells' like the stinky stuff they put in natural gas so you know it's on?

The test is whether you can smell your own logs.

/Titus

ndspinelli said...

Zuckerberg thinks his wife is Caucasian.

ndspinelli said...

Chuck, All men in Mn. love the color purple.

ricpic said...

Totally unscientific but in my experience a lot of women have a thing for red. Men are slightly more partial than women to the blue-green part of the spectrum.

wyo sis said...

My red/green color blind husband says that some browns look like red to him. So an animal hiding in a green and brown landscape stands out as red.

Barry Dauphin said...

Loss of sense of smell would be good to mention to your physician. It's probably minor but can be a sign of a neurological issue.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

ricpic,

Totally unscientific but in my experience a lot of women have a thing for red. Men are slightly more partial than women to the blue-green part of the spectrum.

In my recent experience (watching news broadcasts and political talk shows, anyway), women have a renewed fondness for pinks. The hot-fuchsia jacket has made a particular comeback. It seems really ugly to me, but then I've always been a blues-and-greens person myself.

Larry J said...

Being a military history buff, I've read a lot of books about WWII. I'm pretty sure it was in Cornelius Ryan's 1966 book, "The Final Battle" that I read of an American soldier who was color blind. He could easily detect German camoflague that normally sighted men couldn't see. In a rare case of operational sanity, the Army put him in a spotter plane where he was able to locate many camoflagued German positions. He probably saved a lot of lives that way.

rhhardin said...

Long ago people were calling Con Ed reporting a gas smell in NYC, and Con Ed replied not to worry, natural gas is odorless and that's just a warning smell they put in.

Avery Gilbert said...

Ann,

I’m a scientist and work in odor perception for a living. The olfactory equivalent of color blindness is specific anosmia—one has a generally intact sense of smell but with narrow gaps in the tuning curve, so to speak. For example, like a lot of people I can’t smell androstenone, a musky/urinous odor. Everyone has some of these “blind spots,” even perfumers, who learn to work around them.

If you are noticing a reduced sense of smell, you might want to get it checked out. It could be any number of things, from the plumbing (e.g., airway blocked by nasal polyps) to the wiring (e.g., loss of sensory nerve cells from virus or head injury). ENT for the former, neurologist for the latter.

Æthelflæd said...

My brother has red-green colorblindness and says that reds and greens all seem like shades of brown to him. He once couldn't find his Red Angus bull in a pasture of tall grass because he just completely blended in, so he had to get one of his kids to help him find the bull.

ken in sc said...

My sense of smell comes and goes, but I can always smell asparagus pee. Occasionally I wash my nose out with warm salt water, which burns like hell, but it does clear things up for awhile.

J. D. said...

I am colorblind, and I have worked in a graphic design field (map publishing). I have two apps on my phone that help me identify colors by name and value descriptions (cmyk, rgb, hsv, etc.). A website that I found useful in explaining how things look to me to my wife and friends is vischeck.com. In my experience the simulations of my form of colorblindness look the most similar to the control images.

Rabel said...

Sorry to hear about your odor problem, but I'm happy that you were able to smell the roses between 2008 and 2012.

Sam L. said...

If you can't smell Benghazi Barry's BS, you have my...hmmmmmmmm.

Howard said...

Loss of SOS is multifactorial like Avery Gilbert said. One thing to try if it's the plumbing is a neti pot with warm saline. Mix the salt half/half with baking soda to keep the pH up more towards the human body. Also, a little baby shampoo in the rinse will help clear out and disinfect the knooks and krannies.

Anthony said...

Sam L, that's unfair. Our hostess has been able to smell Benghazi B.S. better than most people who voted for Obama.

SeanF said...

J.D., what are the apps you have on your phone? As I said, I'm color-blind, and I'm curious about them.

The vischeck website doesn't seem to be working for me; I don't see how to upload my own images for it to use.

J. D. said...

SeanF, it looks like that part of the vischeck site is not working, but you can still view the examples. Another site is color-blindness.com, but to me it doesn't seem to work quite as well.

The apps I use are Augmented Colors and Colorful. They are available for Windows Phone 7 & Windows Phone 8, but I'm pretty sure there are equivalent apps on iOS and Android.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

My mother was color blind (yes...I know....very rare) and so of course my brother is color blind. It has always been a mystery to me what colors did look like to them. I know my Mom could not distinguish between red/green blue/brown and pastels were completely out of the questions. In fact, we were involved in a pretty bad auto accident when I was a small child because we had moved from Texas (I think) to California and the stop lights had the red and green reversed in those two states......all my Mom could see was that the light was on. No one thought to tell her that they were in a different position.

A spectacular sunset or looking at the wonder of the autumn colors or viewing the spectacular smokey mountains was all ....meh.....for my Mother and Brother.

What this condition did though, was force us to use more descriptive words for items. A blue bowl or that green shirt, means nothing. We had to be more precise.

Strangely enough, orange was one of the colors that my Mother would gravitate to in clothing. I always wondered what it really looked like to her.

Ann Althouse said...

Avery Gilbert said "I’m a scientist and work in odor perception for a living. The olfactory equivalent of color blindness is specific anosmia—one has a generally intact sense of smell but with narrow gaps in the tuning curve, so to speak."

What a cool job you have.

I wish the gaps I have were narrow. I'm looking for anything that still smells like anything.

"If you are noticing a reduced sense of smell, you might want to get it checked out."

Thanks. I am doing that. I was assuming it was just decline with age, but I found out that isn't true, and now I'm thinking it's something that can be changed.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

DBQ,

In fact, we were involved in a pretty bad auto accident when I was a small child because we had moved from Texas (I think) to California and the stop lights had the red and green reversed in those two states......all my Mom could see was that the light was on. No one thought to tell her that they were in a different position.

Why, oh, why did we go with "red" for "stop" and "green" for "go" when we know that the most common form of color blindness involves the inability to tell those particular two colors apart? And then, on top of it, not standardize where the signals went on traffic lights? I mean, I'm as suspicious of nationwide standardization as the next girl, but honestly, there are a few things that really ought to to be standardized, and "which is 'stop' and which 'go'" on a traffic light should be classed with "which side of the road do I drive on?"

J. D. said...

As someone who is colorblind, I don't have a hard time telling apart red and green traffic lights, although many types of green lights look more white to me. In daylight, I have no issues with traffic lights, but at night, without context, I have a tough time telling the difference between a blinking red light and a blinking yellow one. Since there are several types of colorblindness, and several degrees of it, I can't speak for everyone, but I've talked to other colorblind people who have expressed the same frustration.

SeanF said...

JD, thanks for the info on the phone apps.

As to the traffic lights, I made the same point above - I have no problem distinguishing the red and green used there, but red and yellow are difficult at night. I also agree about the green seeming almost white - in fact, I was surprised to be told that the "walk" light in pedestrian signals actually are white. I had just assumed they were the same green as the traffic lights.