First humans were colour blind

I never start my articles with a quote, yet this one is too evocative to pass:

“The color blue is associated with two of Earth’s greatest natural features: the sky and the ocean. But that wasn’t always the case. Some scientists believe that the earliest humans were actually colorblind and could only recognize black, white, red, and only later yellow and green. As a result, early humans with no concept of the color blue simply had no words to describe it. This is even reflected in ancient literature, such as Homer’s Odyssey, that describes the ocean as a “wine-red sea.”


Egyptians produced what is believed to be the first blue dye, dating back over 6000 years. 

Whether you agree with this or not, psychological studies found correlations between people who favour this colour and personality types. Blue lovers are more likely to be introverted, confident, and calm. There are even more studies that attach certain moods to specific colours. I’ve never been one to take this as the letter of the law. It is too general, given that I like what I like and know what that is. For instance, I will never instinctually put too much green in my designs. Because my natural affinity, while I like green in so many ways, is to stay away from it in what I’m personally concerned about. That means that, as a design professional, I can use green and any other colour, and I will respond to the colour palette that clients have in mind. In that case, no colour is off the table, and all must be appropriately considered.

When it comes to personal preference, however, things are drastically different. And when discussing matters of colour with individuals that are colour-blind at varying levels of the spectrum is challenging.

We’re so accustomed to thinking that the visual field is perceived through colour that we often rate secondary design tools that are much more powerful, like scale, contrast and texture.

Humans perceive all visual stimulants as a whole, and the lack of one does not make as much of a difference as you think. When working with visual deficiencies, I’ve learned to be bold in colours such that I achieve higher contrast, more varied in textures to achieve tactile differences, and more detailed with patterns to acquire an interest in form that compensates for colour. 

According to contemporary studies, the scale is still tipped. 8% of men and 0.5% of women are colour-blind. That is one in 12 men and 1 in 200 women. No wonder the realm of nuance is more profound in women. A nuance of colour can often translate into a nuance of emotional intensity. 

Anthropologically speaking, we have come a long way from our ancient ancestors. Yet, the normalization of visual perception, through its incredible bond to colour, is the one that should be secondary to the rest.

Image courtesy of Unsplash

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