ColorAdd: A Color Coding System

The designer Miguel Neiva developed a color coding system called ColorAdd which shall help colorblind people around the world. Simple and easy with many applications. Let’s have a closer look at it.

basic color codes

ColorAdd Basic Color Shapes

The system is based on three basic color shapes representing the primary colors blue, yellow, red and two forms for black and white. While mixing those basic graphics like you would mix colors themselves this results in a list of 21 basic colors including lighter (mixing in white) and darker (mixing in black) shades.

color palette color codes

21 Basic Color Codes of the ColorAdd System

This is it. Some more shapes for grey, silver and gold, but nothing else. That’s the whole ColorAdd system. At the first glance this is really simple and easy.

The designer claims that you don’t really have to memorize all those shapes as it works like mixing real colors. If you know the basic shapes you’re all set. In a way that’s true. But as I’m not that good on mixing colors—remember I am colorblind—I have to think about it twice if I’m right with my color mixture guess.

  • Simple: Yes. But somewhere you have to explain the system in my language as the symbols can’t easily be associated with the right colors.
  • Intuitively: No. Why don’t you use some sort of symbols which everybody associates with a certain color like fire, water and sun?
  • Nice design: Yes. Yes I like it. Simple shapes, they are nice to look at.
  • Robust usage: No. Hold some of them upside down and you will get the wrong color.

But the most important question to answer is: Can this color coding system be an added value for color blind people? This is what the designer claims and what it is actually all about. I don’t think so. Here are a few examples in my everyday life to support my point of view:

  1. The banana couldn’t change such a shape if it turns ripe. A big issue for me.
  2. Red/green led lights often already include some icon to show you something. So you can’t enhance them with another one and I’ll never know if it’s red or green.
  3. Ok, I would know if my shirt is blue or green. But I’m still not sure if it matches my purple tie or red trousers.
  4. And in most cases already now the manufacturers could add some sort of icon or pattern to help colorblind users in many situations. But they don’t do it and such a color code wouldn’t be easier to decipher than some simple icons.

Nice but unusable for me. I would be very glad if I get proven wrong in the future, if ColorAdd starts to get used and enhances my life in some way I can’t see yet.