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Seeing The Real Hue: How Color Blindness Impacts A Consumer's Impression Of Product Packaging

by Hector Horton

Companies are beginning to realize that their product packaging can frustrate people with handicaps or disabilities. Poor packaging design can also inadvertently repel color blind consumers. While not technically disabled, color blind people face challenges when shopping because they are unable to perceive a brand's image or product in the way that people with normal vision can.

If your family and friends love a particular brand or product, but you find the packaging repulsive, you just might be color blind. Here are the basics of color blindness, how it can interfere with how you shop, and what packaging researchers are doing to improve your consumer experience.

What is Color Blindness?

Color blindness is more common than you might think. Approximately one in 12 men and one in 20 women have a form of color blindness that interferes with their ability to distinguish certain colors.

Color blindness comes in two forms: total and partial. If you have total color blindness, you can only see hues of black, white, and gray. If you have partial color blindness, you either cannot distinguish between red and green, or blue and yellow. Partial color blindness, especially red-green color blindness, is much more common than total color blindness.

What Causes Color Blindness?

In most cases, color blindness is an inherited condition. It can also develop as a side effect of other disorders, like glaucoma, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and macular degeneration. Trauma, medications, and old age can also interfere with a person's ability to distinguish colors.

Whether the result of genetics or external forces, color blindness manifests in the same way. Your eye has three kinds of photoreceptors, called cones, that recognize either red, blue, or green color wavelengths. A shortage of these cones decreases your eye's ability to recognize and distinguish certain colors.

Living in a Color-Less World

Color blindness, especially partial color blindness, causes a unique set of lifestyle problems. If you are color blind, your disorder interferes with your life in ways you might not expect. You might perceive certain foods as discolored and unappetizing, you may have difficulty judging the ripeness of fruit by sight alone, and you cannot easily tell if meat is cooked to your liking. You might have trouble matching your clothes or pairing your socks after a wash.

Because color blindness is untreatable, you have no choice but to adjust to the colorful world around you. Even though color blindness is not considered to be a disability, the condition does interfere with your daily decisions, including your shopping choices.

Shopping While Color Blind

Package manufacturers are only just beginning to realize the importance of marketing products to the color blind population. Marketing researchers have long used focus groups to assess and improve packaging design, but these researchers do not always screen for or take into consideration why color blind people respond the way that they do.

Color blindness is hardly a rare disorder; thus, ignoring the opinions of color blind consumers disregards a significant number of the consumer population. Recent studies have introduced this issue, and designers like Arc and Co. are responding positively. This is good news for you: the more that researchers and companies take the color blind population into market research consideration, the better your shopping experience will be.

For now, however, take a second glance before shunning a particular brand or product because of its packaging. An unappealing logo or unattractive photograph of food may not accurately reflect the brand or the product. You may be missing out on a wonderful product.