Seeing in color

Being born left-handed (but forced to write with my right hand by my teacher), a lot of the right side of my brain is active. Lots of daydreaming & imagination that is. I’m a very visual person, possibly the reason why I got into user interface design when I was in the UK, or filmmaking later.

One thing you probably don’t know about me is that I have a bit of synesthesia. When I’m dealing with numbers, I have to visualize them in order to understand them, and I see them with colors. This is how I see them:

0, 1 (white), 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Notice how 3, 5, 7, and 9 are similar in color, all based on red. Constructions of these numbers retain their color. For example, 38 is both red and black in my mind. Sometimes one color overpowers the other, if one of two numbers is bigger. For example, I see the 38 number as a rectangle, and the blackness of the 8 might take about 75% of the rectangle’s surface, leaving only 25% for the 3’s red.

It’s similar as to how I also perceive music. I can get high with music without the need to take any drugs. When I hear relatively abstract music (e.g. chillwave), I can see images (that look like this), colors, even LSD-like patterns — I can dance among them in my mind. But the music has got to be right. I don’t get any of that when I listen to pop or rock, for example. It has got to be that kind of hipster music that most people find it inaccessible without having smoked something first. The advantage for me is that I don’t have to smoke or take anything. I just have to relax, and get adrift.

Some consider synesthesia a “condition”, but for me it’s a blessing.


Stefan wrote on April 25th, 2011 at 1:05 PM PST:

Very interesting to read about synesthesia, I was not aware of it. I agree it’s not a condition or a “handicap”, more like a gift.
About your perception of music, do you like classical music? Some romantic composers have very intense music. At least two composers died while conducting Wagner’s Tristan and Chopin is said to sometimes become unconscious while playing his compositions.

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Eugenia wrote on April 25th, 2011 at 1:20 PM PST:

I listen to classical every now and then, I like epic operas and symphonies, although my favorite was always the Four Seasons, maybe because of its clarity.

Ivan wrote on April 27th, 2011 at 12:44 PM PST:

I’m a great fan of Oliver Sacks. Do you know him? He’s written about synesthesia in his books quite often. Here is a clip on youtube about it.

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