Monday, July 9, 2012

A Study on Color

I had the pleasure of being completely blown away by a recent episode from Radio Lab regarding the visual perception of colors. Not only was it figuratively eye-opening to the biological differences surrounding the perception and interpretation of colors, but it had a profound impact on my reality as I knew it.

In one excerpt, the podcast outlined the biological differences in dogs, birds, humans, insects, and the mantis shrimp in order to give an example as to how many possible combinations of colors can be visible, and where humans are within that range. It's safe to say the findings completely tore down what I thought was my colorful world, and made me feel blind to the actual visual spectrum. Without butchering the episode too much, the findings made me want to learn more about how color is perceived, classified, interpreted, and how that could possibly impact my personal life and career as a designer.

xrite online color test

To get a better idea as to where I ranked on the color scale, I found an online color test that grades your ability to see colors. A perfect score is a zero, and I scored a four. The test itself is fun and challenging, but easier if you step back a bit, rub your eyes, and glare again and again.

These results made me feel average, if not slightly above average, but another study peaked my interest further. After listening to the Radio Lab episode, and understanding that the perception of color is influenced by vocabulary, the idea that we could train our eyes to see different gradients or hues was fascinating. Especially so, due to the fact that those different classifications can be solely reliant on having a word for it.

In the above video, the Himba are given a visual test to point out which color is different, and cannot distinguish a bright blue square from the apparently obvious green ones surrounding it. Likewise, we are unable to distinguish a bright green square from the apparently obvious other green squares surrounding it, but they can. The experiment suggests that this is due to the fact that the Himba tribe have different names for colors, and some of their names incorporate more than one of our color classification. It is harder for them to see blues, because they do not have a word for it.

These reality shattering experiments put me in my place as a tiny part of the known universe, but more importantly I now have a new perspective of the possible. 

1 comment:

  1. Okay, let me break it down for you. I started off with a trial run, just to get the gist of what was happening with the test. I didn't time it and wasn't really paying too much attention. I got a 66 with just doing a quick run.

    I then got serious. I set myself 5 minutes on a stopwatch to sort and place the hues. I think this was adequate as when the timer went off I felt pretty satisfied with what I had in front of me. I sorted the obvious colors to their respective extremes and then spent the rest of the time comparing from the outside in.

    First monitor is an LG L226WTQ-BF (TN LCD Screen) made in 2007 I've had for probably 5 years (until today). I scored a 40.

    Fed Ex guy showed up with my new monitor and I plugged it in. It is an LG IPS235V-BN (IPS LED Screen). I again set my stopwatch to 5 minutes. This time, I felt I was generally satisfied with my sort quicker... I had more time to critique and it felt easier. I scored an 8.

    I think this pretty much validates the improved color representation of an IPS screen vs a traditional TN screen.