Monthly Archives: February 2013

chicken colour vision

Most humans are trichromatic; that is, our colour vision is mediated by three types of light receptor in our eyes. These receptors are known as cones and the three types have peak sensitivity in different parts of the colour spectrum. We sometimes refer to these as LMS cones because of their peak sensitivity at long-, medium- and short-wavelengths light.

Some people (men, in the main) are colour blind and this is because they are anomalous trichromats (they have three cones but the spectral sensitivities are less optimal than they should be or they are dichromats (they are missing the L, M or S cone types). But what about other species?

Most mammals are dichromats including dogs and cats. However, many fish and birds have better colour vision than do we humans. I just came across an article that reports that chicknes have five cones compared with our three. The research has been conducted the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis (USA). It is suggested that birds often have more cones than we do because they descended directly from dinosaurs and never spent any part of their evolutionary past living in the dark.

what is it like to be colour blind?

Another simulator on the market that shows you what your image or website would look like to someone who is colour blind. This one is from a company called ETRE – for further details see

In the image series below the left image is normal and the ones in the middle and right show protonopia and deuteranopia respectively.


For more on colour blindness see my earlier post.

is colour forecasting ethical?


Colour Forecasting is big business. What is it? Well, if you search on the internet you may find something like this:

Design firms and retail markets utilize forecasting services to predict trends in color. Color forecasting helps designers (who work a season ahead) what fabrics and styles will be popular in future months or years. Color forecasting resources help predict trends in the fashion industry, and also home home design.

This suggests that colour forecasting predicts which colours will be fashionable in the future; for example, next year. However, I think there is another way to look at it. I am not at all sure that it is a prediction process at all; I prefer to refer to it as a marketing process. This is what happens. A group of people work very hard and have a great deal of expertise and through their activity and global network they produce a ‘prediction’ of what colour will be popular next year. Normally the prediction is not a single colour but a colour palette; but for simplicity let’s assume that it is a single colour and it’s red. The last thing retailers want is stock they cannot sell so they are very keen to find out what the colour forecasters are saying. When they hear that red is going to be popular they make sure that they purchase and stock large amounts of red stuff. Fashion magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Vogue want readers to buy their magazines and want to be seen to be on trend and so they publish story after story about how the next big thing is going to be red. Now think about the consumer. The fashion magazines are full of red and the stores are full of red. What do you think the consumer is going to buy? Can you see why I think the process is more about consumer manipulation than it is about prediction (in the scientific sense)?

Actually, that colour forecasting is not a really a prediction process isn’t even my main gripe. Rather, it is that colour forecasting (and the fashion industry more generally) encourages people to buy more clothes than they need. Do we really need to keep up with the latest fashions? Our consumption of textiles is already unsustainable and we cannot go on behaving as we have done in the past.

One of the final-year students in the School of Design at the University of Leeds is undertaking a research dissertation in this area which I am supervising. She’s running a short questionnaire and needs as many people as possible to complete it. It’s very short; please take a look here.

Survey about colour

University of Leeds Campus
University of Leeds Campus

I am very lucky to be working with Sea-hwa Won from South Korea who is here in Leeds for three years undertaking a PhD in colour design. Her PhD is about …. well, I can’t tell you that yet because it might influence the answers you give to her on-line survey. She has just launched an on-line survey about colour and product design and it would be great if you would help her research by clicking on the link below and completing the survey. Later, when the survey is complete I will say something about what the research is about.

Click here to take the colour survey. It only takes a minute of your time and for that you will receive the warm glow of satisfaction that you have contributed to the advancement of colour science.