How to Make Maps and Graphs Colorblind People Can Actually Read


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Good design is design that can serve all users, regardless of their differences. It is sometimes difficult, however, for designers to remember or imagine that some physical, mental, or environmental conditions may prevent individuals from using a product the way it was intended.

Think about maps, for example. Cartographers rely on colors and symbols as ways to relay information efficiently. However, people who have color-vision deficiencies may not be able to discern between the colors outlining separate geographical areas, which will render the map useless to them. But it’s not just maps, many everyday objects can prove difficult for color-blind people, from traffic lights to pairing the same color socks.

Color blindness, which is not a form of blindness but a deficiency that affects the perception of color, is relatively common. The red-green type, which makes it difficult for individuals to distinguish between shades of red, yellow, and green, is the most prevalent affecting about 1 in 12 males and 1 in 200 females. It is inherited through a gene on the X chromosome, which is why in women, a defect in one X chromosome can be compensated for by the other. Other forms of color deficiency, like the blue-yellow presentation and blue cone monochromancy are much rarer.

Examples of test plates from the Ishihara test, which is used to diagnose red-green color deficiencies. On the left plate, the number “74” should be clearly visible to viewers with normal color vision, while viewers with some color deficiencies may read it as “21”, or may see nothing. On the right plate, viewers with normal color vision should see nothing, while red-green deficiency sees 2. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

So, what can designers and developers do to make their products…

Sasha Harriet

Sasha Harriet

As content editor, I get to do what I love everyday. Tweet, share and promote the best content our tools find on a daily basis.

I have a crazy passion for #music, #celebrity #news & #fashion! I'm always out and about on Twitter.
Sasha Harriet

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