Fifty shades of gray

Weekend Glitz | Lisa Kao 10 Jan 2020

Pallas Wong beat 8,696 others to win the junior prize in the Red Dot Design Awards in brand and communications with his design.

He has also named one of 72 best of the best.

Unlike other winners, who designed smartwatches or a marathon game, the 23-year-old's design was nothing fancy, but raised awareness about color blindness.

For The Hardest Colorblind Test, Wong projected a "reverse colorblind test" at Southbank in London for four days in January 2018 alongside the Lumiere Light Festival.

Unlike the usual tests, the numbers cannot be seen by people without color blindness.

"In society, people know about the existence of color blindness, but do not really care about it because it is not a matter of life or death," said Wong.

Not being color blind, Wong was also one of those who did not care about color blindness - until he became the manager of an e-sports team.

"I was managing AHQ ESports Club when I found that a lot of gamers switched on colorblind mode to play shooting games, as they could find their enemies easier that way."

The mode makes color contrasts stronger, so objects stand out more.

Intrigued, Wong began researching colorblindness and even developed it into a university thesis.

"When we make decisions, 70 percent of our emotional response is based on colors. Normal people see 25 shades of gray, but colorblind people see 50 shades."

Wanting to move beyond academia, he came up with the idea of a reverse colorblind test. The test may sound easy, but actually required lots of work. "My teammates and I had to make more than 30 adjustments to the shapes, darkness, outlines and colors of the test," he said. His group also made a projector to ensure the colors were calibrated.

He contacted various organizations and experts to ensure the accuracy of the test. "Thomson Software Solutions lent its eyeball tracking tool and predicted how colorblind people would see the test, while a university professor invited people with color vision deficiencies to test it."

Wong estimated that about a million people visited the projection. Though the project might not have brought about huge changes, it has encouraged him to create similar ones in the future.

"Many artists with psychological problems use art to express themselves, but it doesn't work," he said, explaining that the audience might be able to understand the message, but not the underlying psychological problems.

"I want to use different mediums to import social topics that have been neglected for decades in society."

It is a subject close to his heart, as he suffers from bipolar disorder. Ultimately, he wants to use design to build a loving community. "The government does provide support for disabilities, but the importance is to build trust and love between people."

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