Color Design for People with Color Blindness

Presented by: Heejin Lee, Eunsill Lee

It is estimated that about 8% of the male population has color blindness. This is a considerable number of people that should not be overlooked. However, design professionals often neglect people with color blindness. Given that designers should consider the needs of all people based on universal design principles, it is critical for design professionals to be aware of the needs of people with color blindness. The purpose of this study is to (a) understand the color perception of color-blind people and analyze the differences in color vision between people with color blindness and people without color blindness and (b) propose proper color scheme designs that are easily seen by color-blind people and are aesthetically pleasing. To understand the color vision of color-blind people, we utilized Vischeck, a color blindness simulation program developed by Stanford University. After developing simulated images for color-blind people’s view, we compared and analyzed the original colors and the simulated colors. To design effective color schemes for color-blind people, we reviewed color functions and color harmony theories. According to the environmental design planning theory (Ewha Color Design Research Institute, 1997), there are eight functions of color: safety function, camouflage function, physical function, psycho-physiological function, therapeutic function, identification function, symbolic function, aesthetic function. We focused on the three most important color functions appropriate for color blindness: safety, identification, and aesthetics. Through reviewing color harmony theories, we selected applicable color harmony theories to satisfy users in terms of aesthetics: complementary contrast, brightness contrast, and association contrast. Combining three color functions and three color harmony theories, we proposed a series of color schemes which provide clear distinctions between colors for people with color blindness when applied to public facilities (Table 1). We also applied the results of color simulation and the proposed series of color schemes to Seoul City, South Korea. Seoul City created its new city branding in 2010 based on the symbols of the city. Seoul’s branding included 50 Seoul colors that were developed from Korean cultural colors and utilized in many public facilities and signage. We evaluated the visibility of Seoul’s color palette and found that many color schemes were not functioning properly for those with color blindness. This study proposed effective color schemes for public facilities and signage in Seoul City that are easy for all visitors and citizens to see, especially those with color blindness. We expect the proposed color schemes to be useful for design professionals in improving their color planning to meet the needs of all people.


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