António Oliveira, ColorADD, 3rd APCOMTEC meeting in Aveiro

The creator of the ColorADD system, Miguel Neiva, could not speak at the event, and was replaced by António Guedes de Oliveira.

António Oliveira started by distributing colored paper and plastic glasses to part of the presenters, then showed a few color images. The paper glasses changed the colors in a way similar to being color blind, driving home the importance of the issue. Also, it was actually intentional that only some of the people received paper glasses, which created an instant prejudice among the attendees. So, while those with glasses learned the implications of not seeing all the colors, the others felt the implications of the corresponding prejudice.

The presentation continued with some facts:

  • 1 in 12 of men are colorblind, against 1 in 200 of woman. Therefore, it is a very common problem among men.
  • More than 600m people with vision defects, some 350m colorblind.
  • 90% of colorblind people need help with buying clothes.

Implications of being colorblind

Some examples of the implications of being colorblind:

  • Police wears pink shirt instead of blue shirt on parade.
  • Politician wears shoes of different colors.
  • Kid cries when someone spills coffee on the table, because he sees the same color as blood.
  • When the Netherlands football team played with orange clothes, some colorblind people only saw the legs of the players, because they confused the orange with the green.
  • In hospital, people follow colored lines to navigate maze of corridors to a destination. But some ask the doorkeeper which line is the yellow one, then walk very slowly over that line.

The colorblind people themselves try to keep their deficiency to themselves, and learn small strategies to cope with their everyday problems. For example, small kids will intentionally forget their colored pencils at home, so they can ask their helpful colleague to lend them the pencil with the right color. There are very few organizations related to colorblindness, and those that exist were created by family, not by colorblind people themselves.

The ColorADD solution

After studying 140 persons during his 8-year long MSc, Miguel Neiva created a system to represent CMYK color, basically an optional percentage sign inside an optional square.

ColorADD talks about being an inclusive solution for a significant problem in the world, and Miguel Neiva himself has evangelized his system in some 400 events in the world.

ColorADD intends to provide the system for free for educational purposes, but wants to license all comercial usage. The following examples of licensed usage were provided:

  • A cheap phone App to detect colors.
  • A not so cheap web picker to detect color on sites.
  • The Portuguese pencil factory Viarco, which started to export to 15 countries after creating licensed color pencils. The company used to sell exclusively into the Portuguese market.
  • An hospital in Oporto, where they added codes to lines on the floor and on patient bracelets.
  • Oporto city railways (Metro do Porto).
  • Clothes for kids from Zippy.
  • School Libraries, apparently in a small number of Portuguese public schools (Mangualde and Sintra?).

During the follow-up questions, António Oliveira stated that ColorADD licenses the system to pay the salaries in the company.

Doubts on business models

However, at least myself and another (anonymous) participant feel that the company is spreading the idea way too slowly, while the idea could be spreading at Internet speed. ColorADD seems more concerned with controlling the licenses than in spreading the knowledge about the system. As an alternative, they could follow the lead of open source initiatives. The other participant suggested a Firefox plugin, for instance.

I believe that this system will win when Chinese clothes start to have the symbols. So, give the system to the Chinese. Clearly ColorADD does not expect to collect licenses from all the cloth factories in China?

While writing this article I found the best explanation of the system at Viarco and Ashoka, instead of the ColorADD website, which is really unexpected from a company founded by a designer.


This article is part of 3rd APCOMTEC meeting in Aveiro: