Second String

By Kayla Hoolwerf
Second String


This animated dance short Second String combines concepts of art and design to demonstrate the importance of inclusive design for colour-deficient individuals. Created in Toronto with animation by Kenna Barnes and choreography by Nicole Baillie, the piece was made to remain entirely colour accessible by alternating between a standard colour vision palette and a deuteranope red/green deficient palette.

The concept grew from Barnes’ own personal experiences of being colour deficient and noticing a large number of the designs she would come across were inaccessible. Colours like reds and greens appear murky or dull, especially when they are presented as the same value – meaning how light or dark a colour is. She created the film using a theory based on the fact that those who have standard colour vision can’t guess what a deficient person is seeing, they instead focus on the values they choose. “By ensuring that all hues are different values, then all forms of colour deficiencies will be able to see all aspects of the design, albeit in different colours.”

By using Photoshop, Barnes was able to flip the palette she had chosen to show how people with the deuteranopia deficiency (the most common form of colour blindness) would see it. This is most noticeably seen when the red shorts the dancer is wearing turn a khaki green. Barnes struggled through areas of the project like picking the colour palette due to her own deficiency. She relied on the help of mentors, while continuing to ensure that all the values were distinct and different.

The choice to use dance and animation to represent the control a disability can have over a person, often leaving them feeling impaired (portrayed by the puppet strings holding the dancer upright), was largely because the concepts were easier to portray through movement, but also because she wanted to illustrate them by playing with art forms that don’t traditionally use narration or dialogue.

For choreographer Baillie, it was an entirely new experience. “The time constraint was probably the most difficult part, because it’s a lot of storytelling for just one minute.” Barnes created a storyboard for Baillie outlining important points of the story/dance that she wanted her to hit. “I didn’t have strict limits,” said Baillie. “More or less a list of actions that had to happen in order, but artistically she let me run wild.”

Natural colour
Palette with distinct values
Deficient Colour
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