How Does a Colourblind Person See the World? Be Considerate of Others.

How Does a Colourblind Person See the World? Be Considerate of Others.

The biggest advantage of being a graphic designer is that you meet so many kinds of people and work for so many different types of companies.

Some clients wanted to talk as briefly as possible, while others shared more about their interests and their lives.

That’s how I found out that my printer was red-green colourblind and one of my clients was red-colourblind. How does a colourblind person see, became an interesting topic this way.

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How does a colourblind person see?

Just because someone is colourblind doesn’t – usually – mean they don’t see colours at all. They see colours differently than someone who is not colourblind. A graphic designer should take this into account when choosing colours.

Seeing colours differently

Have you ever had a discussion with someone about what a particular colour is called?

I often have those debates with my husband. We give bright colours the same name, but mixed colours regularly lead to discussions. He would rather call a blue-green hue green, whereas I would say turquoise.

A colourblind test shows there is nothing wrong with our view of the coloured world, yet even then it is obvious we either see colours in different ways or just name them differently. 

Related: ​​A Helpful Colour Theory for Hobby Artists as a Thorough Foundation

Red-green colourblindness

Colourblindness is most common in men and the most common variety is red-green colourblindness. 8% of men are colourblind and only 0,5% of women!

My first question to my printer when he told me he was red-green colourblind was whether he could print well.

He reassured me that the printing world always works with all kinds of measuring devices, such as a spectrophotometer and a densitometer. Rarely colour is judged by the eye by printers.

Colourblindness in degrees

Red-green colourblindness

I got this picture from one of my clients who is red-colourblind and his dry commentary was: “There is no difference between these photos, but there are people with a colour delusion who see all kinds of colour differences ….”

Until then I only knew of red-green colourblindness, so I was truly amazed. Fortunately, it didn’t bother him and he could even laugh about it.

Related: 7 Ways to Use Colour in Photography Creatively and Differently

Colourblind to the max

The photographer Ansel Adams proved that black and white pictures of landscapes can be beautiful. Yet I would hate it if I would not see colour. A colourful landscape would then become quite dull.

When turning colour photos into black and white, it is necessary to choose images that are rich in contrast.

The inability to see colours at all, achromatopsia, occurs in about 1 in 30,000 people.

In a TED lecture by performance artist and musician Neil Harbisson, he explains how he solved his total colourblindness by converting colours into sounds. He has an antenna on his head that, with the aid of software, converts colours into certain sounds. The strength of the sound indicates the differences in the tone of a colour.

The antenna on his head is implanted in his skull. He even managed to get the photo including his cyborg antenna accepted in his passport, although it took quite some effort.

I think it’s a great story about how one can change one’s weakness into a strength. He is rightly the first cyborg!

Consideration for the other person

What those stories really taught me is to give my full attention to things that are different from my own experience. As a graphic designer, I naturally applied that in my work. But also as a private person, I became richer by giving attention to what is different.

What does colour mean in your activities? Let me know in the comment box below.

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6 thoughts on “How Does a Colourblind Person See the World? Be Considerate of Others.”

  1. Completely blown away by the ‘hearing colors’ video you shared here, Hannie! Thank you – I had no idea that this was possible.
    My uncle is colorblind. He explained to me years ago, that he hardly ever had problems with it, (he is a rather accomplished hobby painter) but when navigating the road signs in nature, he could be completely lost. These were designed without considering colorblind people.

    • Ohh, that is an interesting phenomenon, I have never heard about getting lost because of the colours of signs. Do you know when he has those problems? If the hikes are indicated by either red or green? Or does he also has a problem with for instance yellow and white?

      Now that you mention it, they should also use geometric forms like circles and triangles next to the stripes of colours. I suppose he would prefer the little ‘stone men’ that we see sometimes in the mountains.

      Thanks for your insight and comment, Kadanza. Take care.

  2. Once a Dutchman told me that in the sixties in Amsterdam some hippies made a hole in their heads because this would free their minds and make them happier. I always called this balony. But Neil Harbisson actually proved how a hole in his head made him happier!!! Absolutely amazing.

    • Brrr, what a story, Aubrey, I mustn’t think of drilling a hole in my head just for an idea. A former colleague has a hearing aid that is attached to his skull. Even that I find scary! But you’re right about Neil Harbisson, he is amazing.

      Thanks for commenting and telling a scary story. 🙂


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