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Seeing The World In Shades Of Dull

, , , , , | Working | April 22, 2022

I used to work in a tech service company where I grew to be the only designer on a team composed of many experienced developers. The Chief Technology Officer was especially on my back, since everything I did took too much time for his tastes and/or wasn’t something he thought we could sell to clients.

One time, I got to work for a client located in French Polynesia and was asked to design an administrative tool that would be open to public use. I pondered for a while about what design would be pleasing to the eye for people looking for land information on exotic islands. I finally decided to start a mock-up with the most vibrant, vacation-looking colors I could get, and proceeded to get feedback from the team.

Me: “I used different images here and here to give a feeling of looking at a beach when this window and this one are opened.”

Team Member #1: “Yeah! Nice colors! I really like the different tints of blue.”

Team Member #2: “It is more green than blue, though, isn’t it?”

CTO: “What are you all babbling about? It’s ugly, it’s dull, and he spent too much time doing it. Looking at a beach… Pfwah!”

Team Member #1: “Dull?! No way!”

CTO: “Meh, yes, kind of way.”

As the team started debating about colour preferences, I was thinking about what the CTO said. I was used to his harsh remarks, but “dull”? And suddenly, it hit me.

I speed-Googled for an Ishihara test and showed the first result to the CTO.

CTO: “Why are you showing me this stupid thing? I could never see anything in these optical illusions.”

Me: “Well, chief, you might want to try a few other ones, but this is not an optical trick. These are part of a test to detect if you are color blind. Did they not test you when you were a kid?”

As it turns out, no, he had not been tested, and yes, he was awfully color blind. We all spent the rest of the day exchanging Ishihara pictures, and in a team of eighty people, there were eight who were color blind to different degrees and didn’t know about it.

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