The Colorblind Designer

This is a post from a few years back that I wrote about being colorblind as a graphic designer. As you can imagine color is a huge part of my job and passion, so I’ve had to find ways to work around the quite severe colorblindness.

I can only see the top left number.

Some of you may know this, and some of you may not; I’m colorblind. It’s not something I usually go broadcasting to the world, well…until now. Now, let me clear up what I mean by “colorblind”. I can see color, and my life is not a black & white movie. My colorblindness is common (especially for men) and consists of me, either simply not seeing or mixing up certain colors. For instance; purple will sometimes look brown, and orange will sometimes look green. To give an example of how bad it is:

I took a colorblind test from a book an eye-doctor had. Out of the entire book (which had images like the one pictured above) I could only make out ONE of the numbers. Quite literally a #fail. Also, this whole curiosity of me possibly being colorblind started when I was a teen, arguing with my mom about what color the dashboard lights were in our minivan. I thought for years that they were green…but they were actually orange.

Normally, people don’t know until I pop the famous question, “What color is this?”. When they see what I’m asking about, it’s usually very clear to them what color the object is. For me, it’s typically something else. So now to answer the big question; how can I be a graphic designer who works with color every day, and be colorblind? It’s simple: Pantone systems, color values, and asking others!

I’ve grown to not be afraid of asking anyone (even a complete stranger on the street) what color something is. It’s a two second answer, with about a five second explanation of why I’m asking. There are several designers out there who have the same speed bump, and it’s not a disadvantage by any means, just a slight obstacle. If you look at my designs, you’ll see I can clearly do my job as a graphic designer, regardless of being colorblind. It also helps when I’m working with a limited color palette for a client or business, as colors are typically labeled.

This should also explain why I love bright colors so much: it’s because I can see them! Dark colors tend to blend or disappear from my eyes, so surrounding myself with bright colors tends to help reduce the frustration. Not to mention, bright colors are just happier and more fun!

I would love to hear from some other colorblind designers out there, and see what ways you all have to get around that minor roadblock? Also, could someone please comment below as to what is in the colorblind test circles pictured above, because all I can see is the number 12. And since they’re grabbed off Google, I’m kind of hoping there’s nothing naughty in them…


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