#004 – Still Untitled

Colour is an opinion

The truth is that my brother’s interpretation of those colours was just as valid as mine. The truth is that there is no single colour truth.

27 August 2021

Photo © Piccia Neri

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    By Piccia Neri.

    We’ve all got a right to our (colour) opinion

    When I was about 8 or 9, I was obsessed with weaving beads bracelets on my wooden loom. I was so proud of that loom. It was just a plank of rough wood with a row of nails at either end, but I’d built it myself, hammering down the nails on a wider plank than usual, which would allow me to weave taller, wider bracelets.

    I loved designing the patterns in my sketchbook, carefully working out how to reproduce them on the loom, square by square. But my favourite thing, by far, was choosing the colour schemes.

    I still vividly remember the sharp pang of pleasure I felt when I matched bright, electric blue and deep orange beads as the colour scheme for a geometrical pattern. I had no idea that I’d picked two complementary colours, a bold pair of contrasting opposites that made my spirit fizz and and my loom sparkle. 

    And I also had no idea at the time, nor for a long time after, either, that the way I saw, savoured, and experienced those two vibrant colours could be totally different for someone else.

    And yet, those differing experiences would each be completely valid.

    Some time later, my older brother was getting ready to go to a family wedding. He was wearing a green suit, and he called on my sister and me to help him choose a matching tie. 

    We saw the options he’d aligned on the bed. And we were horrified.

    He’d chosen a bright red tie that clashed garishly with the green suit. This colour combo might have worked with other garments and on a different occasion, but it was just totally wrong in the given situation.

    Green and orange pigments in small round containers
    Photo © Piccia Neri

    When we questioned his choice, my brother replied:

    “I don’t know what you’re talking about. That tie is brown. It goes perfectly well with the green suit”.

    😳, went our faces.

    I ran to get my favourite bracelet. I showed him the dazzling blue and orange combination that gave a spring to my step any time I wore it. He replied:

    “That’s beige and grey”.

    😳😳😳😳😳😳, went our faces.

    This is how we found out that my brother was colour blind.

    Sometimes we need to experience something personally, or see it happen to someone close to us, before we can understand how it might have negative repercussions on other people’s lives.

    Just like Eric Weiss in the Twitter thread above, I’m not even colour blind, and yet all I can read in the doormat in the image above is GO VBS. Is VBS a basketball team?

    A girl loves UX tweets that she reads GOO V BLS, whereas the the second “O” and the “L” are completely invisible to me.

    Which confirms my claim that colour is an opinion.

    I got to this understanding a few decades after the tie and bracelet incident, but as they say, better late than never.

    The truth is that my brother’s interpretation of those colours was just as valid as mine. The truth is that there is no single colour truth.

    My horror at his perceived “mistake” was completely misplaced. My brother’s vision had just as much value as anybody else’s.

    If you are interested in creating accessible colour experiences for the people that use your products, the talk “Colour on the web” gives you a few good pointers you can start from – and it goes a bit deeper in showing you just how and why colour is indeed an opinion. If you prefer to read, there’s an article version of the talk, too. Oh and if you want the slides for the talk, you can just get them here.

    Carrying it further: a few great resources to get started with accessibility


    Carrying on with the accessibility topic: one of the attendees to the Design for Conversions conference recently asked me for advice on good starting-place courses for accessibility.
    As you might have heard me say before, when you apply basic design rules conscientiously you’re probably more than half-way there with accessibility. However, should you want to get a proper education focussed on accessibility, here are a few great places for you to explore.


    Courses by the Interaction Design Foundation

    I love the courses by the Interaction Design Foundation. The Foundation offers education on a wide variety of UX-related topics, among which there are a few accessibility courses. The yearly fee they charge is minimal in comparison with the value they deliver, and that includes the great webinars that they set up regularly (see below for more on this).  The courses use a combination of written and video content, and they require that you actually carry out homework in order to get your course qualification, which truly helps with motivation.
    This is a model I like very much because I can dip in and out, and only consume the content I’m interested in at that point. The  Interaction Design Foundation is where I started with my journey in learning UX. I am hugely grateful to them.

    Courses by The A11y Collective

    I highly recommend the courses by The A11y Collective: they are more practical and of extremely high quality. They also have a free course that’s a perfect taster. Our friend Rian Rietveld is part of this collective, and you can watch the recent webinar with Rian hosted by Cloudways to get an idea of how her approach to accessibility will actually make your projects more successful.

    Course by the W3C WAI

    The W3C WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative) website offers a free accessibility course that provides another great starting point. It’s an extensive course that will require 16-20 hours of your time to finish, so it should give you quite a good understanding of accessibility.

    Courses by Deque

    Deque are leaders in the sector of digital accessibility, providing tools as well as excellent training, both privately and via Deque University. I haven’t found any free courses offered by Deque, but their pricing seems more than reasonable, starting at $45 for individuals.

    Courses by Colleen Gratzer

    Our friend Colleen Gratzer offers comprehensive courses on accessibility. She’s also a member of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals, a professional institution that I am definitely thinking about joining soon. Perhaps you should too!

    And a great accessibility webinar by our friend Reginé Gilbert

    If you are here because you attended the Design for Conversions conference, you probably remember the great interview with the wonderful Reginé Gilbert. We’re delighted to let you know that Reginé will give an online lecture titled “How to Design Accessible Experiences” next Wednesday 1 September, for none other than the Interaction Design Foundation themselves! I told you, didn’t I. Only the best for my peeps!

    Of course, I am already registered for this event, which I was able to do for peanuts thanks to my membership of the Interaction Design Foundation. I’ll try and make it on time on the day, but if I can’t, it won’t matter because I’ll have it forever on my IDF dashboard. Hope to see you there next week!

    Let’s connect on LinkedIn

    I confess: I used to be a LinkedIn snob.

    It just wasn’t rock’n’roll enough for me (as if Facebook, where I used to be all the time, was! LOL).

    However, I have recently done a complete 180° on it.

    LinkedIn ROCKS.

    If you are sceptical and need convincing, just head off to the Cloudways webinar with the wonderful Tracey Burnett, a LinkedIn expert, and watch how effortlessly Tracey converts the worst LI unbeliever of all: our very own Lee Matthew Jackson.

    Tracey’s webinar is also extremely useful if you’re already sold but don’t know exactly where to start from.

    As far as I’m concerned, thanks to LinkedIn (and to Tracey’s coaching) this year only I have:

    🎉 Found 4 amazing sponsors for my Design for Conversions conference – which translated into actual 💰💰💰 as well as creating new relationships

    🎉 Received 3 job offers

    🎉 Learnt so much more about design and UX

    🎉 Met so many new colleagues

    🎉 And potential clients

    So. What are you waiting for?

    Head to LinkedIn right now and connect with me

    Please write a short note specifying that you read this newsletter (I always write a note, even when connecting with people I know quite well).

    In case you missed it: The UX on this product is terrible

    “Not only am I VP of reproduction for this household, but I’ve also been the end-user of this Small Child for over three years now. I’m going to give it to you straight. The user experience is terrible. Overall, the Small Child is under-designed, unintuitive, and frequently fails to meet eve the most relaxed ease-of-use standards. As you may know, the other stakeholder and I are aiming for a 2022 launch of v2.0. I’ve gathered you here today to provide detailed feedback on the ways the Small Child UX design could be improved for future iterations”.

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