A quick note about this section

Our passion for designed objects is the direct result of our passion for well made things. We are always on the lookout for smart and well made products that are physical manifestations of a daring spirit of adventure; new ways of thinking about the world. Outfitter is where we share our current favourites along with a little window into how they came to be.

Colour for the colour blind

Written by
Stephen Baldwin

Andy Schmeder, co-founder and CEO

Computer modelling and field testing of everyday light sources  

Sunglasses with colour-correcting lenses

Despite the issue affecting roughly 300 million people (most of them men), there has been little in the way of potential cures or corrective measures for colour vision deficiency (CVD).

Scientist Don McPherson and mathematician Andy Schmeder have taken an ambitious crack at the issue with Enchroma, a company that makes sunglasses that can improve 80% of colour blindness cases.

When light enters the eye, blue, green, and red photopigments are activated. For someone with normal vision, the green and red photopigments overlap, but that overlap is more pronounced among colour-blind people, making different hues indistinguishable.

We drove all over Berkeley looking for different kinds of stop lights, and would park and watch the lights change for an hour with different glasses we had designed.

McPherson had no intention of solving this problem when he first created the lenses. His aim was to develop special eyewear to protect doctors’ eyes from lasers during surgery.

One afternoon, he wore the special glasses during a game of ultimate frisbee. When a friend with CVD asked if he could try them out, he saw colours he’d never seen before. McPherson got to work soon after to understand how this could be, enlisting the help of Schmeder to develop computer models that simulated wavelengths of light and colour vision deficiency.

Enchroma’s technology corrects the colour ratios by removing small slices of light where the red and green cones overlap the most. Perfecting this process took thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Schmeder says the manipulation of light had been used only in advanced optics for devices like telescopes and microscopes.

“These other application areas are highly controlled conditions where the spectral and spatial distribution of photons is precisely engineered,” he said. “But, when it comes to eyewear, we found early on that everything is much more complicated and messy. The world around us is full of different types of light — the human-built environment contains a staggering variety of both natural and artificial light, as well as myriad natural and artificial pigments imparting colour to the world. We had to learn, often through trial and error, how to make our products as effective as possible without unintended side effects.”

“In one of the first prototypes, it worked great in testing but caused fluorescent lighting to have an eerie pink glow,” he said.

Photo courtesy of Enchroma

“So you would walk by a high-rise office building and the whole thing would be glowing with a crazy pink halo — it was curious at first, but actually very distracting, and we had to fix it.”

Another involved certain types of traffic lights: “We drove all over Berkeley looking for different kinds of stop lights, and would park and watch the lights change for an hour with different glasses we had designed.”

They had to be extremely careful when considering changes and iterations. Schmeder says the early prototypes cost roughly US $20,000 each.

The cost dropped significantly when they were able to move from a glass lens to a polycarbonate (plastic) version, dropping the price from more than US $700 per pair to around $400.

While the company is still looking to improve its sunglasses, it has also moved on to a vision-correcting contact lens.


To find out more about Enchroma, visit enchroma.com

Stephen Baldwin

Stephen Baldwin is a Toronto-based writer and editor who has written for Toronto Life, Fortune, Report on Business magazine, and CBC.

Preparing is Half the Adventure

Modern-day discoverer Adam Shoalts discusses risk taking, remoteness, and the role of research in his latest four-month solo trek through the Canadian Arctic into areas still untouched by human footprints.

Read More

Reading in the Dark

Ten must-read books to get you through the night.

Read More


A mirror for the "daily me"

Read More


Thinner, greener, smarter

Read More


Epic wins, every day

Read More

Gravity Light

A new class of lightweight

Read More

Awake in the Amazon

A traveller shares his deep and incomplete reflection on an ayahuasca trip.

Read More

Wearing Black

A Photo Essay by Nick Kozak

Read More

Missing and Murdered

Julian Brave NoiseCat interviews award-winning journalist Connie Walker about her podcast that brings light to one of Canada's darkest issues.

Read More

Chasing Totality

The most vivid memory I have of an eclipse is one of deep anxiety.

Read More

Dark Patterns

In today's digitally driven culture, where we share more about ourselves than ever before, companies are finding new, subtle ways to tap into an age-old marketing opportunity — our insecurity.

Read More

Changing the Conversation

Three YouTube creators are working to destigmatize their culture and maybe even learn a thing or two about themselves in the process.

Read More

Embracing Our Dark Reality

A collective of writers, artists, and thinkers is exploring the darkest realities of our time.

Read More

Preserving the Night Sky

Two astronomers discuss why the night sky we see today is different from what our grandparents saw.

Read More

Saving Endangered Languages

How one Mohawk community is reclaiming culture by revitalizing its mother tongue.

Read More

The Night Shift

Four Torontonians share the ins and outs of working outside the nine-to-five.

Read More

This Film is Available in Critical Audio

Blind film critic Tommy Edison reviews films for those seeking entertainment beyond sight.

Read More

The Dark Arts

Artist Kent Monkman subverts colonial myths and First Nations representation in his sesquicentennial exhibition.

Read More

Having Fun Watching Others Having Fun

Twitch has built an unlikely new platform for online entertainment.

Read More