17th July 2015
The Only Thing That Should Be Separated By Colour Is Laundry
So my inspiration for this blog is one of my best friends, who happens to be colour blind. It by no means defines who he is, but after asking him a million questions, (and thinking he would probably get sick of my probing), I decided to venture out onto my own research and see how this world of colour, or maybe the lack of it, can affect marketing. It’s proven to be a really interesting project, affecting the online world more predominantly than what you might have initially thought. When you consider the use of colour in marketing, the need for visual effects, and how we place such importance on branding, it’s a wonder why colour blindness isn’t taken more seriously.
Colour blindness is a colour deficiency that affects 1 in 12 men, and 1 in 200 women in the world. In Britain, this means that there are 2.7 million colour blind people that see the world in a very different way. That’s a massive potential audience from a marketing perspective, so we need to make sure we’re accommodating their visual needs.
For the vast majority, the condition is genetic, and has been inherited from their mother. The most common form is with red/green colour blindness, and statistically speaking, most people with a moderate form of red/green colour blindness will only be able to identify accurately 5 or so coloured pencils from a standard box of 24 pencil crayons.
It’s hard to imagine what your work is going to look like to a colour blind eye – yet it really can make an impact. So what if you were to make it obvious that you’ve taken into account the way that other people see the world? That’s got to be a marketing step worth considering. At the end of the day, people absorb colour before any other information, so it makes sense to take it seriously.
After a chat with one of our web developers here at SilverDisc, (thanks Luke!), unsurprisingly, websites can be massively impacted, as the focus is on making the site easy to navigate for the users. Colour contrast, rather than colour blindness, is a familiar step. Some useful sites are:
- http://www.checkmycolours.com/ - a great site that checks foreground and background colour combinations, determining if they provide sufficient contrast when viewed with someone having colour deficits.
- http://wave.webaim.org/ - this picks up general accessibility things like missing alt text for screen readers.
- http://gray-bit.com/main.php - an online accessibility tool designed to convert a full-colour webpage into a grayscale rendition to help visually test the page’s perceived contrast.
With all this said, you will still need to consider your branding (contrast is different to colour blindness after all) – so if your branding is difficult to distinguish, then you’ve added a complication to your web developing team, compromising the usability of your website for approximately 5% of all users.
Another slant to consider is that of infographics. These are becoming increasingly popular as a way to communicate information to an audience in a more engaging format, often using symbols and colourful backgrounds. But what if these colours appear the same to someone with colour blindness? Or if the font doesn’t provide a valid contrast to the background? To cut a long story short, you’ve eliminated 2.7 million potential readers.
In order to avoid colour blindness pitfalls, there are a few rules to take into account. Avoiding the following colour combinations will definitely help:
- Red and Green
- Green and Brown
- Blue and Purple
- Green and Blue
- Light Green and Yellow
- Blue and Grey
- Green and Grey
- Green and Black
Think of some of the most well-known brands, none of them use these combinations: McDonalds (red and yellow), Starbucks (green and white), and Cadbury (purple and white) – and you’ll find this trend with a lot of the branding giants out there. How about this: Mark Zuckerburg, the creator of Facebook, is red-green colour blind, hence why Facebook is blue – it’s simply the colour he can see the best.
Some good tips are to use various shades of the same colour, use brighter colours instead of dim ones, use thicker lines and use texture in colours too – which can be particularly useful for infographics and maps. Another option is with the ColourAdd system, which uses symbols to describe colours, and if included on your website it could subtly show your awareness to the colour blind community.
So, to wrap it up, not knowing about colour blindness, and not accommodating for millions of people, is not an excuse for ‘poor’ marketing. Instead you can use the many tools available online to create branding that is ‘colour blind friendly’, allowing everyone to interact with your brand. Better still, have a chat with your web development team (or come to us), to make sure your colour contrasts and general design is user friendly.