Matt Hansen, designer at global branding agency Siegel+Gale, explains how brands can design inclusively, including color vision deficiency (CVD).
Design is a tool used to help users understand information, which means that we as designers should design for everyone. Whether it’s creating signs for stadiums or icons for websites, designers try to create tools to help users get from point A to point B. from the arena to their seats, or from a home page to the checkout page, the design is intended to facilitate decision-making.
Our daily experiences and interactions are greatly influenced by how we physically see, or don’t see, the world. Designers also have a huge impact on these interactions. If we have blind spots in the design, we exclude large groups of people. In particular, we can exclude an often overlooked group of individuals who have color vision deficiency.
Color vision deficiency (CVD) affects a larger group of people than initially thought. One in 12 men and one in 200 women see the world differently. To put that into perspective, that’s about 347 million people — more people than currently live in the United States. CVD has long lived out of the public eye, but it’s time for brands and creatives to become more aware of it – and better yet, start designing for it.
But first, let’s try to understand better. CVD impacts the perception of various colors and color combinations. There are many forms, with red-green CVD (deuteranopia) being the most common. This is particularly relevant due to the essential role that red and green play in all facets of design. Below is an illustration of how different forms of CVD affect the same image.
Now imagine how different Squid Game might be for someone with deuteranopia.
When creating a brand or designing a visual system, keep in mind that a brand is only as good as it is accessible. While there have been many advancements in designing brands with inclusivity in mind, including standards and guidelines – as well as examples – that brands have implemented to design in more accessible ways , there is always room for improvement. In particular, there is a huge opportunity for brands to create more inclusive digital experiences for CVD people.
One simple thing to incorporate when creating a digital experience for CVD people is the use of multiple signifiers. Instead of just using color to communicate, try using color and words, or color and patterns. Another way to design for cardiovascular people is to use high contrast and know the color combinations used. If color plays an important role in your design, consider adding a CVD mode to your interface.