First Google Hit

Today the first visitor through a Google search landed on my page. He or she was looking for the keywords: crayola gold medal box crayons. Hmmm. Not really the keywords I want to be found through, but it’s ok, I mean, it really is the first visit coming from Google.

Just yesterday I tried to optimize the page to be a bit more accurate on my topics:

  • color blindness
  • colorblind
  • color vision deficiency
  • red-green color blindness

So let’s see if Google starts crawling my page and I’ll get some hits on this topics in the future.

Microsoft knows about Color Blindness

…or at least the color palette inside the Microsoft Office tools knows about color blindness. I don’t know on which release they introduced this feature, but all the shown colors on the palette have a tooltip with their colorname and that is just great.

I often need to color either a text passage or a table cell. For a colorblind person this already means guessing, trying out, not knowing what you really are doing. Say I really need to have this table cell colored red. How do I know that this is really red? With my red-green color blindness I never can say it for sure. And therefore this little popup names step into the gap and are of great help for me. I don’t have to ask me anymore if I really have chosen the correct color or ask somebody else to give me a helping hand.

Wouldn’t it be great if this little bit of knowledge could be shared among others? Say: all crayons have their color name imprinted, clothes have not only the size but also the color name on the tags and even watercolors have a little cloud hovering above them to show their names. That would be heaven on earth.

Black Coffee versus James Brown

I’m sipping my coffee and ask myself: is this good tasting liquid brown or black? Who can tell? And what about Coke, the same question arises: brown or black? And what about James Brown, was he really brown and not black…

For me it is really hard to tell. Everybody says coffee, Coke and even humus soil is brown. For me it looks most of the time black, as black as black can be. And what about a pitch dark night, is it really black or not? Ask yourself.

I assume the so called colorblind people are just not involved into the agreements all others made about colors. There must be somewhere a big black book locked away with an official seal, which tells everything in detail about the colors – and within the truth about black and brown.

The Biology behind Red-Green Color Blindness

Red-green color blindness is in the majority of cases provoked through a defective X-chromosome. Human beings have 23 different pairs of chromosomes whereof one pair is the so called sex-chromosome. This pair consists of two X-chromosomes on women and one X- coupled with one Y-chromosome on men. Color vision in the red-green area is coded on the X-chromosome which is called a sex linked trait.

This concludes if a man is a carrier of a defective X-chromosome he will suffer from color blindness. On women the not defective chromosome is in charge and therefore she is not colorblind but a carrier for color blindness. Because a women needs two defective X-chromosome to be affected this symptome is called X-linked recessive. A very interesting conclusion of this: If you are male and your father suffers from a red-green color vision deficiency you can not inherit it from him. Only women can be carriers for color blindness who pass it on to their sons.

Let’s have a look at some illustrations. On the left you can see how the disorder is passed on from an affected father to his children. The sons are unaffected and do not have the mutation. The daughters are not affected but are both carriers of the disorder because they inherited the defective X-chromosome from their father. The illustration on the right side shows a mother which is a carrier and a father which is unaffected. Their son is at a rate of 50% affected i.e. red-green colorblind and their daughter is at the same rate either are carrier or unaffected.

X link Recessive Mother And Father

In the last illustration we coupled an affected man with a women which is a carrier. As you can see their children are at a rate of 50% affected. This is the only case shown here, where a women can be affected i.e. suffering from a red-green color blindness. If the children are unaffected the daughter is anyway a carrier of the disorder. The not shown combinations where man and women are either both affected or both unaffected are left to the reader…

I hope this could give a better insight into the biology behind color blindness. It has to be noted that these remarks are only true for red-green color blindness. Blue-yellow color blindness (tritanopia) is linked to the chromosome pair 7 and therefore sex independent. Further readings on this topic and more details can be found under the following links:

The above illustrations are provided by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, 7th March 2006.

Imagine the Green is Red

I found this photograph taken by David Shrigley through a journal entry of hickdesign. Isn’t it great? The question is now: Can I see the sign or not? And as the question already implies, I can see it despite my red-green color deficiency. And why can I see it?

Red-green color blindness doesn’t implicate that these colors can’t be seen at all or are simply grey. They can be seen but intertwine smoothly into each other. A strong green and a strong red can be seen and distinguished very well under certain circumstances:

  • If each color is not mixed out of different shades.
  • If there are no big structure changes in the colors.

As an example think of a forest. A forest has many different types of green mixed into each other. On the other hand you have many structures (leafs, blades of grass, differnt plants, …) twined into the whole picture. This makes it very hard or almost impossible to spot say some red blossoms. The colors can’t be told apart from each other and therefore everything melts closer together and makes up a big green shaded picture. The green makes up the main color and a lot of other colors lose in this background noise.

In opposite to this the above photograph has clear structures and strong colors. The reasons to make it readable even to me and a good source for a smile.

Do you have a Problem with Colors?

It happened the night before we went on our long trip accross the US and to Hawaii. I had to do some last purchases at the grocery store accross the road. On my way back, it was late night and not many cars on the road, I crossed just before the little walking man jumped from red to green. To my misfortune a policeman observed this delict, walked towards me and said: Do you have a problem with colors?

Yes I do have a problem with colors. I am colorblind. I’m suffering from a red-green color deficiency. And I don’t think it is very funny where we can have a big laugh now. Do you have a problem with that? – I felt offended.

But I didn’t say anything. As you know, it was the day before our big holiday, so I kept silent. I just payed the bill, smiled, wished a nice evening and took off. And this reaction was even better, because they realized what a mere nothing this all was about and I could spot how uncomfortable he felt.

White is a Color

It is snowing since this early morning and according to the forecast it will be snowing until tomorrow afternoon. We already have approximately one foot on our terrace. Usually we get a few centimeters maybe ten or twenty but not as much as this. And I’m loving it.

Snow is great, wintertime just beautiful. And I think for a colorblind person it is even more beautiful. Because there are no flowers to miss, everything is white. No green, brown, yellow or red trees, they are all covered with snow. No yellow, white or blue parking lots, just a thin blanket of snowwhite on the roads. No red roofs, yellow fields, grey highways, green lawns or black nights. Everything is white.

Yes, I know: Everything is white, how boring. But it relieves for some time from being under a light but permanent color vision pressure.

Choosing the Right Colors

If you have a color deficiency and want to design a webpage you either are very self-confident or looking around for some help. Of course other persons can be very helpful but they are never around the time you need them and tend to have so many different opinions. Why not stick to bits and bytes?

Color Scheme
Example color scheme

For example Color Schemer is among others a good tool for choosing matching colors. There is an online section where you can compute matching colors based on a given one. They even offer a free download called ColorPix which can be used to find your base color say on a given picture or webpage you like.

It was a great help for me when I played around with webpages and image editing tools. Of course I could choose just any colors I like and who match for my eyes. But every time I showed them to persons with no color deficiency they cried aloud. The outcomes where just not made for normal vision maybe winning at most some bad taste award. That was the time when I started using those supporting tools for color picking. And now I can be happy with the results and they don’t put others to rout anymore – at least when it comes to colors.

Supporting a Colorblind Husband

Because color blindness is linked to the X-chromosome and a recessive trait it occurs more often on men than women. So what can you do to support your husband if he is colorblind? Here are my advices:

  • Choosing the right tie is a big problem; every single time. Helping out as it would be your daily business can be a relief from stress in early morning hours.
  • Explaining to friends what color blindness is can be a pain in the ass. Always the same stories, the same questions, the same laughs about not so funny jokes. Let it be explained by you and give it a serious touch. This will stop their asking much faster and unburden both parts.
  • Choose colors yourself and just let them be approved. Never ask a favour if there is a selection of colors included. Colorblind people never really know if it fits. They guess or learned it and don’t have the feeling for colors. And if you do it anyway be prepared for everything and accept it.
  • Stop the asking-colors game if it goes on for more than just a few questions. Some people don’t know the right time to stop asking: What color do you see here? And there? – Stop it politely and remove the burden from your partner.
  • Point out colorful things because colorblind people can sometimes just not spot them. They might be glowing for your eyes but not for the eyes of a colorblind. If you point it out maybe it can be seen and thus enjoyed as well by the colorblind.
  • Put color into your life. Just because somebody is colorblind it usually doesn’t mean he can’t see any colors at all. If you know which colors can be seen bring them in and brush up your life of colors.

This list is of course not final but something to start with. I would be pleased to hear further suggestions from you.

The Color of Crayons

A fun fact from Crayola:

In 1990, after 37 years of service, the most senior Crayola crayon maker, Emerson Moser, retired after molding a record 1.4 billion crayons. It was not until his retirement that he revealed a very well-kept secret – he was actually colorblind.

Let’s make a painting. Green grass, blue sky and a bright sun. So let’s take the green crayon for the grass. But how do I know which one is the green crayon? I have this problem all the time. Either I know the color of my crayons or pencils I have with me otherwise I have to guess. Every time, really every time. If you own your box of crayons you just know the colors by heart. You learned them once and remember which one is which color. I think this is very strange for somebody who can see colors. Color blindness is about learning colors like foreign words. And after a while you forget it or it shows up in a different shade and you have to learn again. Learning colors.