During a workshop involving empathy mapping for people with visual impairments, a student reached out to her father who was colorblind to get some advice.
He sent her the below message which reads, ‘I don’t know if this is something you’re doing, but this is something you and other graphics people should know. Do not ever ever ever make charts and graphs with color-coded areas or bars. I cannot come close to understanding those if there are more than 3 colors. Just today I was reading an article that has a bar graph with about six or seven colors and I gave up after about two seconds. Color coded charts and graphs are just another way to keep the brutha down. Don’t use colors. Use patterns. Colors look pretty but they are completely unintelligible.’
Colorblindness effects eight approximately 8 percent of men and 0.5 percent of women according to the National Eye Institute. Designers often use colors to differentiate things on the web and that can be a challenge for some users.
My student’s father gave the best advice to keep in mind when designing for people with color blindness.
- Don’t make charts or graphs with color coded areas or bars
- Don’t use more than 3 colors
- Use patterns and colors when you can
Creating accessible design does not just benefit those who may have impairments but benefits us all. A well designed site or graphics are accessible for all those who want to use your product.