Bringing Colors to Life

A color assistance app for people who have visual impairments or blindness

Find your your path on a color-coded subway map, shop for a matching outfit, and know if a banana is ripe for eating. For these moments requiring color comprehension, the Colorizer app seeks to help people who have colorblindness or blindness. The app development concept began as a graduate media design project and reached early software testing in 10 days. It responded to an open-ended design brief to recruit a geographically dispersed team for rapid social innovation. I'm grateful to have had as collaborators: journalist and educator Amy Wu in Hong Kong and software developer David Jiang in Washington, D.C. Recently, I picked up the project again to further build its UX and Human-Centered Design assets. For each interaction, I considered how to design for the universal access of people with no vision or color-impaired vision.

Read an early website introducing the app, its features, the project's background, and our collaborator bios.



User Persona: Color Vision Impaired

A food safety pain point is distinguishing between fresh red and spoiled brown meats. For the 5% of men who have deuteranopia (red-green colorblindness), the fresh and spoiled meats show very little difference in color, as shown on the right.

"I just know I have trouble with reds versus greens, greens versus browns, and greens versus oranges." — Phil, Maryland, 41

User persona: No vision

Another use case is for people who don't want to be surprised that they've left the house wearing a "weird combination".

"I have 10 different shirts that feel almost the same but are completely different colors, so it’s pretty helpful for that." — Pablo, Boston, 27

The Information Architecture is built on 5 main functions: Identify, Save, Palette, Info, and Search.

User Flow Wireframes: Blind users can navigate the app by giving voice commands. The app responds by speaking results, recording, and confirming actions. For color/vision impaired users, the interaction can be through touch-screen navigation and/or voice commands.

The later, simplified logo, at the right, works well for both people with color vision impairment and those with full vision. The bottom row uses Color Oracle software to show how the icons would appear to people with red-green color blindness.


Listening experience

Hear our color descriptions highlighting a color's associations to emotions, pop culture, and varying customs. In the app's Information section, users can hear this pre-recorded playlist, record their own color verses and upload them for other users to hear. 

Text by Amy Wu, voicing by Melissa Park, music by, sound mixing by HyunJu.


While noting that 90% of people with no vision have experienced vision at some point in their lives, Pablo said:
"I think the audio descriptions of the colors do a good job at describing examples and the general mood of the color. This could certainly be useful for someone who hasn't experienced the colors themselves."

Phil said: "Definitely I'd like to see colors better. This app idea is a good one ... When will it be ready?"

I'd love to hear from programmers and others who’d like to collaborate on further development of the Colorizer app or similar projects.