Not all Eyes are Created Equal

It is a truth universally acknowledged that not all eyes are created equal. I remember back when I was taking a psychology class in high school and we were trying to determine if we all saw the same green, or if my green was actually pink and the other person’s green was actually yellow.

In the end, we discovered there is no actual way to determine if we all are seeing the same colors, regardless of whether or not you are color blind. It’s sort of wild—maybe I think pink is green and green is pink. There was once an interview with a blind person who was trying to describe colors, and they said they couldn’t understand it given how there were so many shades. They claimed they didn’t understand how we kept them straight!

What I’m trying to say is that color really is subjective. Besides, nobody sees colors exactly the same way, even if their eyes are perfect. There is no way to describe color, and there is no way to guarantee that people are seeing what you are seeing or if they are even the same shade. I believe it’s been proven that no one sees colors exactly the same way. There’s an interesting article from Psychology Today if you want to know more.

So what is a designer to do then? If we live in a visual world, how can we guarantee that people are seeing things the right way? Or that they can even see it? I think people forget about things like color blindness and how it can really change how you view the world. Not to mention how it impacts design.

As a designer, it is crucial to consider the diverse needs of our audience, including those with color vision deficiencies. Color blindness, or color vision deficiency (CVD), affects millions of people worldwide, making it imperative for designers to create content that is inclusive and accessible to all.

What is Color Blindness?

Color blindness is a visual impairment that affects a person’s ability to distinguish between certain colors. It occurs when the cones in the retina, responsible for detecting color, are either missing or not functioning correctly. The most common forms of color blindness are red-green color blindness, followed by blue-yellow color blindness. People with color blindness may have difficulty perceiving shades of red, green, blue, or yellow, or they may see these colors differently than individuals with normal color vision.

To get a bit personal, my dad is red-green color blind, and sometimes it’s baffling to see how he can’t perceive a shade of pink or thinks something is grey when it looks so different to me. He sees the world in an entirely different way, and sometimes it makes it difficult for him. There are times when he buys something thinking it’s a certain color only to find it’s a completely different one, and it annoys him. He told me that because of this, he had to memorize what certain shades looked like based on what he was told about them so he could pair shirts with his suits and so on. He’s pretty good at it too. However, there are many times when he will ask me what color something is so that he can match things correctly.

And that’s with just red-green color blindness. Some people have complete color blindness and only view things in greyscale. Have you seen those greyscale art trends where digital artists will take a color palette in their art program, swirl the colors together, and then put on a greyscale filter so they can’t actually see the colors and then use it to create a picture? They will use their understanding of shades in order to color in and shade the art piece, and then they will turn off the filter to see what colors they used.

Sometimes the piece (like the one in the video I linked) will use colors that are so wildly off from reality, purely because maybe the darkest shade was red and the lightest shade was blue, but they don’t know that and use it because it appears to have the greatest contrast that fits with their understanding of greyscale color theory.

It sort of lets you see how people who have visual impairments view the world, and because they can’t see certain colors, it can impact how they view the design and whether or not they can even see all of it.

The Impact on Design 

Color plays a significant role in design, from conveying meaning and emotions to organizing information and creating visual hierarchy. However, relying solely on color to convey information can pose challenges for individuals with color blindness. As mentioned in the previous section, some people just can’t see certain colors, and therefore they will not be able to see all of the design. It makes things like design elements such as color-coded charts, graphs, and navigation menus difficult for them to interpret, leading to frustration and exclusion.

Designing with Accessibility in Mind

To create inclusive designs that cater to individuals with color blindness, designers can implement the following strategies:

  • Use Color with Purpose: Avoid relying solely on color to convey information. Instead, supplement color cues with other visual elements such as text labels, patterns, icons, or symbols to ensure clarity and comprehension. For example, in data visualizations, use patterns or textures in addition to color to differentiate between data categories.
  • Choose Accessible Color Palettes: Select color combinations that have sufficient contrast and are easily distinguishable by individuals with color blindness. Tools like color contrast checkers and simulators can help designers assess the accessibility of their color choices. Aim for a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 for text and interactive elements against their background to ensure readability and usability for all users.
  • Provide Alternative Cues: Incorporate multiple cues or indicators to convey information, such as using different shapes, textures, or shades in addition to color to differentiate between elements. For example, in interface design, use icons or symbols in conjunction with color to indicate different actions or states, ensuring that users can understand and interact with the interface regardless of their color vision.
  • Offer Customization Options: Allow users to customize the color settings or choose alternative color schemes based on their preferences and accessibility needs. Providing options for high-contrast themes or grayscale modes can enhance usability for individuals with color vision deficiencies. Consider implementing accessibility features such as color filters or tint adjustments in digital products and platforms to accommodate diverse user needs.
  • Test for Accessibility: Conduct usability testing with individuals with color blindness to identify potential accessibility barriers and gather feedback on the effectiveness of design solutions. Iterate and refine designs based on user insights to improve accessibility. In addition to formal usability testing, consider incorporating color-blindness simulation tools or browser extensions into the design process to simulate different types of color vision deficiencies and evaluate the accessibility of designs in various contexts.


Designing for inclusivity is not only a moral imperative but also a professional responsibility for designers. By understanding the challenges faced by individuals with color blindness and implementing accessibility best practices, designers can create more inclusive and user-friendly experiences for all. Let’s strive to design with empathy and consideration for diverse abilities, ensuring that everyone can access and enjoy our design content. By prioritizing accessibility in design, we can foster greater inclusivity and empowerment for individuals with color vision deficiencies, ultimately enhancing the usability and effectiveness of our designs for all users.

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