Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Real Losers of Election 2012? The Colorblind

So while this now-entrenched notion of states, counties, people, being either red or blue is (ironically) thematically patriotic, it must be a real drag for the colorblind.  Every election-related map or chart is using these colors, and often the full gradient in-between.  This includes me.  And while I thought about folks with hue discrimination problems, I charged ahead with abandon because the cultural association of red and blue in the political domain was too strong to resist.
And I'd do it again (he said with awkward shame).  But, I'd also make an alternate version again, too.  So here is that alternate version that I thought I'd get to a lot sooner...

Not so hot to me, but hopefully more useful to those with deuteranopia and deuteranomaly colorblindness.  Here, the great American mixing is green rather than purple.

Even still, the dense clouds of 'safe' blue and 'safe' gold mix together you get a  problematic third color: green.  But, ideally this mix color would still look different than either of the Obama or Romney colors.  By the way, the two colors were plucked from the really useful palate of "unambiguous to colorblinds" colors at J*Fly.

Empathy Goggles
Vischeck (in addition to my colleague, Irfan) is a great resource for replicating what an image looks like through the visual systems of folks with different types of colorblindness.  I focused on Deuteranope simulations since that (and the more common Deuteranomaly) is the most prevalent.

Anyways, for those of us who are not Deuteran-seers, here's an imagining of what the original Red/Blue map and the Colorblind corrected map look like through this filter:

The corrected map brings out a more discernible 'mix' color from among the Obama and Romney dots for those with red/green colorblindness.

A visualization that relies pretty heavily on a the trichromatic (the ability to see fully in three primary colors) capabilities of the visual system will find some loss of nuance when adjusted to accommodate a dichromatic (two primary colors) visual system.  But in the images above, it's clear that picking a couple colorblind-unambiguous colors generates a much more visually distinct "overlap" color from either of the inputs.

P.S. Speaking of 'di' and 'tri' chromats, Radiolab blew my mind recently in their podcast on colors.  Apparently it is theoretically possible to see as a tetrachromat.  They are out there somewhere, bathing in hues I can't dream in -and I'm malevolently jealous of them.


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