Friday, February 20, 2015

My Color Rant

Like 8% of men, I'm color blind. In normal day to day life, this isn't much of a disability. For instance, traffic lights are designed by men, so the red in the light is tinted with yellow, and the green in the light is tinted with blue, so the difference in the colors are very very distinctive. The same goes for lights for entering and leaving ports.

In recent years, the most annoying color-sensitive objects are those designed for the general consumers by UI designers who don't know any better. In particular, those devices that are not designed for use by men tend are the greatest offenders.

Take, for instance, Canon's digital cameras. The S90 was clearly designed by a person sensitive to color blindness. The charger had 2 LEDs: one for charging, one for charged. Even if you were color blind, you could use the position of the lit light to tell when a battery had been charged. My Makita power tools and the Canon 5DMk2 (and other professional series cameras) are also designed correctly. Rather than depend on color, the chargers blink while charging and become steady when charged. Note that making devices that the color blind can use in no way makes the experience worse for those who are not color blind!

By contrast, the Canon S100 was not designed by the same people. Instead of 2 LEDs, it was designed to have only 1 LED. That flipped from red to green when charged. And of course, there was no way for me to tell when the battery is charged, which drives me bonkers. Countless cell phones have the same issue (though to my relief, the Sony Xperia Z1's charged indicator flips between red and blue instead of red and green, which is at least usable by me, though not by a mono-chromat). And of course, web-sites that use red and green are also similarly annoying.

Do industrial design schools or UI design classes in schools not have disabilities/color-blindness studies as part of their curriculum? Or do those designers just not care? How can even one company like Canon have such completely disparate policies for products in the same product line?

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