Musings on Colour: Tetrachromacy

As a designer who lives and breathes colour, the arrival of the tetrachromats fascinates me. These people have 4 cones to discern colour instead of 3… and so they can see upwards of 99 million more colours than the rest of us.
So far all tetrachromats have been women, and there are only a handful of them who have been DNA tested to verify their amazing mutation.

Tetrachromats really do see things differently. I wonder what this will mean for design in the future. Will this mutation eventually be the norm? Will our pantone swatch books get even thicker, filled with extra hues that look different –only to the tetrachromat? Or, will the world always remain a 3-coned world, in which the tetrachromats will just have to live with our 3-coned colour flaws? Will they always have to put up with greens that have too much red it them, and blues that have too much yellow?

I just I tried the unofficial color perception test ** Go here to take the tetrachromacy colour hue test ** and was happy that I scored a perfect grade. But alas, my guess is that I was able to order the colours sequentially because my RGB monitor can only send out Red, Green + Blue wavelengths. (3 wavelengths to my 3 cones.)

tetrachromacy color test acuityIt was fun to know that I have 100% hue acuity though, and that all those hours pouring over colour chips and print samples have paid off. I feel less jealous of the super-human colour mutant gene now, knowing that among the 3-coned, I did a pretty dang good job.

Loving all the colour that I can see,


About Chris Donnelly

Chris Donnelly is a brand strategist and a launch specialist. She works with entrepreneurs to flesh out their values, their launch plans and that special unspoken secret ingredient that makes them unique in the marketplace.

Leave a Reply