Compliant style

Joe Clarks’ Fawny blog talks about a category of web design he’s noticed and labelled “The International Compliant Style” (IC-Style). He describes this as being “employed, though not necessarily through conscious decision, by the majority of developers and designers who are committed to following official specifications”. He mentions stopdesign as an example of someone subverting the rules of the style, but I thought that mezzoblue would be an even more radical example. Hicksdesign is one the of the sites that Joe lists as following the rules of IC-Style.

Joe gives some explanations, but I have my own reasons for using the colours that I do. Perhaps I’ll share a little secret with you (and risk losing any client that ever visits this site). You see, I’m colourblind, and more specifically, I have problems distinguishing between blue and purple, and green and brown. This is called ‘red/green colourblind’. I can see tones, but hold up a blue square and purple square, and I’ll probably just see 2 blue squares (handy that you had some coloured squares lying around though).

To test for this, you’re made to look through a book of what looks like random colour dots. Your ability to see the numbers or letters within the dots tells you what colours you are affected by. These can be really frustrating, and leave you crying “No I can’t see anything – its just dots!!”. Many teachers would tell me that I’d drawn “a very nice picture of a green monkey”.

Over the years I have ‘taught myself colour’ through print design and the CMYK palette. I know that 50% cyan and 100% yellow makes green for example. I’ve always had people I could ask as well (my wife gets the brunt of it). There’s also common knowledge. For instance, I know that grass is supposed to be green, therefore when I look at grass I say “hmm… green!”. However, in summer when grass dries up and goes brown, I actually see it as light green. Any concerned clients reading this might now need to reassure themselves that I have a double life as a wildlife illustrator, so I can get by.

What does make life hard are the tiny colour swatches in apps like Photoshop, Dreamweaver etc. When small, and all placed together in one large block, its very hard for me to distinguish colours. I now have a large printed(!) chart, with a good range of hex colours with the colours labelled. Choosing colours can still be a bit of ‘process’ though, and thats my reason for using grey a lot!