Strange Loop

RGB to XYZ: The Science and History of Color

Color is a fascinating subject. It is both incredibly subjective (ie. what makes a painting beautiful) and perfectly scientific (ie. wavelengths of light) at the same time. This talk will be a deep dive into the history and science of color and the fascinating world of human perception and the scientists that attempt to define it.

Many of us are familiar with the RGB or perhaps even the sRGB color space. Generally, though, we stare at our color pickers, fiddle with the values, and pick something that looks right. However, the modern sRGB specification follows a long lineage. It extends all the way back to the turn of the century and the CIE 1931 XYZ color space -- one of the earliest specified color spaces and one which is still in use today.

As display technology advanced, so did our color. New color spaces emerged: CIELUV, CIELAB, YUV, HSV, HSL, RGB, sRGB. Each was molded for a specific use case, whether it was print, perceptual uniformity, compression, or LED display. By the time we work our way back to the present day, we're left with a lot of color options and a lot of questions.

In reality, though, the math and science isn't all that complex. We'll start with color spaces like RGB that we know and love, and see how these naturally evolve mathematically from earlier color spaces such as CIE XYZ. More importantly, we'll see how to apply this knowledge to the decisions we make about color in our day to day work.

John Austin

John Austin

A Stranger Gravity

John Austin is a developer and designer currently living in San Francisco, California. He has been making games for nearly 13 years and has worked at Google, Microsoft, Funomena, and others. He founded and currently leads the studio, A Stranger Gravity, seeking to build thoughtful, accessible experiences that seek to enrich the lives of people across the world.