I had laser surgery on my eyes a couple of years ago. My sight was pretty bad and I’d got bored of not being able to see anything without glasses. It’s a shame, because I look like a mole without them, but vanity can only get you so far, and riding a motorbike in the rain every day eventually changed my mind.
Since then, I have been living in a high def universe. Everything is crispy, sometimes overwhelmingly so. For a period after the operation my sight was measuring at better than 20/20, a result the surgeon was very proud of, but felt to me like too much information. Detail is not romantic. Now my eyes are reverting to type and deteriorating again.
Another aspect of my sight that was less than perfect is colour recognition. The colour exam is not part of the routine eye test, but I remember taking it at some point growing up, and not doing very well. So when this xrite colour test started doing the rounds I was curious. How bad are my eyes now? And how do they compare to the rest of the people I work with?
So we all took the test. Very seriously.
The results are as follows. Low numbers are good, with zero being a perfect score (no mistakes).
Fairly decent scores all round, with the automaTom scoring a perfect zero. Ed’s ten is a product of haste, and would have benefited from a little more patience. My seven is the best I could manage. I was really trying.
So, nothing conclusive, which was surprising. I was sure somebody told me I was colour blind. I decide to try a different test.
The Ishihara testlooks more familiar to me; I’m sure I’ve taken it before.
This is shocking, and immediately makes me wonder why I have instigated a public test that can only highlight one of my major deficiencies. I will never win a colour-based argument again.
Apparently, I am deuteranomalous, considered ‘green weak’. It looks a bit like this:
I am trapped in an Instagram filter. Forever.
It has to be said, I don’t recognize this as my world. I think I see colour as well as the next man. But I would. I don’t know any different. In fact, a little colour blindness can be useful, especially when discussing colour codes…
Some of our clients, (one in particular) love color codes. There is a tendency to want to use them for everything – size, shape, price point. I’ve never really bought it. Even if there were enough colours out there, you are asking a lot for your customer to remember them. Kenneth Kelly’s differentiated colour sequence has 22 colours of ‘maximum contrast’, which he reckoned was about the most you could really manage (and yes, I can tell them all apart).
But still you are into that problem area of shades of colour.
“The blue one” is no longer specific enough.You need to start talking about “the light blue one”. But the light blue might only look light blue next to the dark blue. And quite a few colours on this chart are unavailable because they mean other things already (red means SALE, orange means VALUE, green means ORGANIC) so you are operating with a fairly limited palette.
Add to this a retail environment that looks like this, full of other products deliberately trying to jab at your eyeballs as much as possible, and your elegantly devised triple axis colour code system falls apart pretty quickly.
Which is where dichromatic man comes in. A rare example of where a lack of sensitivity is an asset. Because unless your colours are differentiated enough, I probably can’t tell them apart. And once you get above a handful of colours, in a visually aggressive environment, full of busy preoccupied people, you are wasting your time.
Kenneth Kelly established 22 ‘maximum contrast’ colours… In a supermarket, I think the most you can handle is five.