New Study Shows 67% of Suppliers Are Color Blind

4 min readApr 1, 2020
Ishihara color deficiency test

Color is critical to a brand and its products. Brand owners spend a lot of time and money working to get color right. But a new research study shows that most suppliers, printers, dye house and compounders are color blind.

CMO’s know that color is one of the top criteria consumers use to recognize products on the shelf. Yet 87% of brand owners state their suppliers never get the color right. A new study published in the Journal of Brand Recognition and Consumer Self Appeal has uncovered why.

Researchers from Bauston University worked alongside leading color specialists from Pantone, PPG, CSI and Clariant to create perfect color samples of the top 100 brand logos. They sent these samples to 6,000 suppliers worldwide, asking them to match the color. Each supplier was asked to send back three samples to be evaluated for accuracy.

Leading Brand Identities viewed under different color deficiency levels — Right Side is Normal

The goal of the study was to evaluate how accurately suppliers see and replicate color. When evaluating color, the human eye is capable of seeing about a million colors. But not everyone sees color the same way and there are varying degrees of color blindness. Human color vision is trichromatic, meaning the human eye requires three classes of cones to respond to various wavelengths of approximately 420nm (blue cones), 530 nm (green cones), and 560 nm (red cones). The ratio of red and green cones varies among individuals. This ratio influences how each person interprets the spectrum of wavelengths that enter the eye. As a result, there are four types of color blindness; each causes a problem seeing colors within a specific wavelength.

The research team analyzed the returned samples using a hi-resolution spectrophotometer that can see micro-wavelengths. Researchers then evaluated the data for algorithmic response patterns. What they discovered was that most suppliers suffered from some form of color-deficiency.

Leading Brand Identities viewed under different color deficiency levels — Right Side is Normal

The brand logo colors were analyzed by TheLogoFactory to determine color ratios. They found that 35% use blue, 30% use red, 23% are gray scale, black and white or without a color scheme. Only 20% featured yellow or gold and 7% use green, 3% feature four colors or more, and only 1% are purple.

The samples received by Brian Shaauky, chief scientist at Bauston University had significantly different ratios. Using the Iris Vision, Reverse Color Blindness Test, Shaauky determined that most of the print suppliers suffered from Tritanomaly or Protanomaly.

Individuals with Protanomaly observe the color red as more of a green color and less bright. This type of color-blindness is mild, and is sometimes overlooked, because it tends not to disrupt normal activities. Tritanomaly individuals find it difficult to discern blue from green and yellow from red.

With 65% of the leading brands using red or blue, the team was able to successfully correlate that the manufactures were color-blind.

Leading Brand Identities viewed under different color deficiency levels — Right Side is Normal

To further prove out their theory, Shaauky and his team repeated the study. This time they sent three different color samples and told the manufactures that they were all the same. In reality they were not. Using color-blind data, the team created brand colors that would look different to a person who was not color blind, but the same to a person who was color blind.

Only 35% of the manufactures reached out to correct the researchers and inform them that the samples were all different. The supplier’s response correlated exactly to the original data and sample set. This proved that the team was correct in their assumptions.

Most products use a combination of materials, paper, textile and plastics. This means printers, dye houses, and the manufacturing supply chain of leading brands is color-blind. We reached out to the Printers Guild, Dye Unions and Plastic Pellaats Associations for comments but did not hear back.

In his final thoughts Shaauky said, “We gotcha, Happy April Fool’s Day!

We hope you got a laugh from our fake study. Thank you to all the brands and suppliers who work tirelessly to get color right in production.

The fact is you can still achieve a color match, even for someone who is colorblind. Color is subjective with the human eye. If color is determined using data and numbers, from a color reading device, such as a spectrophotometer, then no matter who is evaluating color, they will be able to determine the right color.




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