Episode #14 – Miguel Nieva of ColorADD


Miguel Nieva, ColorADD

In this episode number 14 of the InnovaBuzz podcast, Miguel Nieva of ColorADD expresses his desire to always want to see design as a tool or as a science to promote a better world. This eventually led to his decision to work with color blind people because they need some integration in the society since they can’t identify colors. This interview will inspire you into doing something for others in your field of work and perhaps find your purpose in the process.

Listen to the Podcast

Watch the Video

Today I’m going to give away a copy of Erik the Red Sees Green by Julie Anderson and Cornelius Spilman. It’s a story of a child that discovers in his art class that he is color blind and how then his parents, his teachers and friends figured out solutions that worked and helped him with his unique way of seeing. Leave a comment under the video and give Miguel suggestions on how he can reach a big global audience with his system.

Show Highlights

Some of the highlights of this episode include:

  • ColorADD is a system that Miguel has been working on and has developed over past 15 years or so. It’s a system to allow color blind people to recognize color.
  • 10% of male population and about half a percent of the female population of the world are color blind, that’s about 350 million people right across the world.
  • 41% of color blind people, experience at least once in their life time the shame for being discriminated in society.
  • Miguel is determined to reach the 350 million color blind people in the world by spreading the message to all the seven billion people without discrimination.
  • The ColorADD system is in use in the Porto Metro Maps, as well as in some clothing labels and even coloring pencils.
  • ColorADD uses a “social business model” that enables companies of any size to license the system.

The Buzz – Our Innovation Round

Here are Miguel’s answers to the questions of our Innovation round. Watch the interview to get the full scoop.

  • #1 thing to be innovative – Be creative and crazy while working with passion.
  • Best thing for new ideas – Create a simple and honest concept that benefits all.
  • Favourite tool for innovation – Put the design methodology together with the passion.
  • Keep project / client on track – Work in cooperation with partners and your own people, then communicate always in the process.
  • Differentiate – Be serious, honest and work with passion and working for the people and with the people.

Reach Out

You can reach out and thank Miguel via ColorADD Website or their Ashoka.org page.

Suggested Guest

Miguel suggested I interview Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook because of his alleged color blindness, on a future podcast. So, Mark, keep an eye on your Inbox for an invitation from me, for the Innovabuzz Podcast!  We know you must be busy, but would love your contribution to this topic.

Competition Hint

Hint: to enter the competition, leave a comment under the video and give Miguel suggestions on how he can reach a big global audience with his system.


Full Transcript

Click to Read…


​ Jürgen:  Hi, I’m Jürgen Strauss from Innovabiz. Welcome to Episode No 14 of the InnovaBuzz Podcast – designed to help smart businesses with an interest in innovation and the Internet of Things become even more innovative.

In this episode, my guest is Miguel Nieva, of ColorADD – a company that is transforming visual communication through a simple, universal and inclusive code that represents colors. Through ColorADD, Miguel is building a world where the social inclusion of colorblind people becomes the norm. Miguel is a very passionate entrepreneur who has developed a very simple system, that can be a powerful tool to help make life better for the 350 million color blind people in the world. He is not only passionately committed to his business, his idea the principle that design being a service to the community, but also to the purpose of working with people and for people – making a difference to improve people’s lives.

​This week’s Innovation tip is around Passion – inspired by Miguel.  Find your own passion. What are you passionate about?  What would you do if you weren’t being paid for it?  Miguel points out, that first and foremost, it is the passion that should drive us and the rewards follow. So identify what you are passionate about and focus on that.  If you find you are not passionate about what you are doing, STOP!  Identify your passion and start spending your time on that.  Focus less on your rewards, instead, focus on the service, being passionate about helping people improve their lives.  Do that well and rewards will follow.  That’s Miguel’s philosophy and we can all learn from him.

Before we meet Miguel, a quick competition announcement – this week’s competition prize is sponsored by Innovabiz – where we help smart, innovative business owners save time and money and grow their business by making their website achieve more.

The prize is a copy of Erik the Red Sees Green by Julie Anderson and Cornelius Spilman. It’s a story of a child that discovers in his art class that he is color blind and how then his parents, his teachers and friends figured out solutions that worked and helped him with his unique way of seeing. Stick around for details on how you can enter the draw to win that competition prize later on in the interview. Let’s now get into the Innovation Hive and get the Buzz from Miguel Nieva.​


Jürgen: Hi. I’m Jürgen Strauss from Innovabiz. I am really excited to have here with me today all the way from Porto in Portugal, Miguel Nieva of ColorAdd. Welcome to the podcast Miguel, it’s a real privilege to have you here.

Miguel: All right. Good morning. Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure for me.

Jürgen: Now obviously we’re in different time zones so it’s evening for me but early morning for Miguel. I appreciate you getting up early for us.

Miguel: More than 12, yes.

Jürgen: Now, ColorAdd is a system that Miguel has been working on and has developed over past 10 years or so. It’s a system to allow color blind people to recognize color. Now when you consider that 10% of male population and about half a percent of the female population of the world are color blind, that’s about 350 million people right across the world – then you can imagine what an amazing tool ColorAdd which helps those people actually recognize color what an amazing tool that it is. It is a real privilege to have Miguel here and we’ll get him to tell us about that.

Before we do that, I’ll just announce today’s competition prize. I thought this was appropriate to the theme and the guest today. It’s a copy of a book called Erik the Red Sees Green by Julie Anderson and Cornelius Spilman. It’s a story of a child that discovers in his art class that he is color blind and how then his parents, his teachers and friends figured out solutions that worked and helped him with his unique way of seeing.

It’s an excellent story about everyone working together to help Eric and I thought it was a good fit with today’s guest. Stick around to find out how you can enter the draw to win that prize later on in the interview.

Miguel before we learn about ColorAdd and the innovative way you develop this idea to be a practical tool for people that suffer from color blindness, tell us a little bit about yourself. What did you initially set out to do when you were a young child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

Miguel: Good morning. I don’t remember if I understand the words design, but since of beginning I want to work or to do something relates with the design. I believe the concept of design is like modern science for instance.

Jürgen: Yeah. Design as a science, that’s interesting.

Miguel: Yes.

Jürgen: Yeah. I read that you had a friend in school that was color blind and then he suffered a little bit through being bullied because of that.

Miguel: Yes. This is maybe the main goal to decide to develop this project. I’m not a color blind but always want to see the design as a tool or as a science to promote a better world. I decided to work with the color blind people because they need some integration in the society, in the world society because they don’t identify the colors and I try to understand how, they can live how can they work and developer tool with a simple concept too can be in used for everyone.

Jürgen: That’s fascinating. When did you set out on this journey with ColorAdd project then?

Miguel: I decided 15 years ago I work a lot therein eight years in my research, because as I tell you I’m not a color blind and that I need to understand what is really, what is the problem for a colorblind people. I worked a lot with the doctors, with the ophthalmologists doctors and I work with a color blind people for different genders to understand how they live, how they feel, how can they solve the problems when the color is a fact or important to identify daily.

Jürgen: Yeah. I imagine there’s a lot of challenges that are kind of hidden because they feel embarrassed about not recognizing color and perhaps they don’t tell people about it.

Miguel: Yeah. 41% of the color blind people, they feel one time in their life the shame, the problem because they are discriminated in the society. We can’t see if the people- the person is color blind or not. The idea of the wrong choice of color in the clothes or in the metro station or in the medicines or in the color of pencils is very embarrassing for the colorblind people. My work or my research is trying to create central democratic tool to all the people and wants to create a process they can understand the colors in the brackets.

Jürgen: Yeah. Describe for us then the system that you’ve actually set up, because I think I’ve got a background in photography and in paint so color was an integral part of both of those careers. I think what you’ve set out there is very, it’s a genius actually, I really love it. A very simple concept but obviously nobody had thought of it before.

Miguel: OK. It’s simple. This is I think the reason of all the success of this project – is the simplicity of the concept. I decide not to create something only for you but it goes to the old knowledge of the people who are young in the school. You work with a little box of inks and they teach you. There exist the three primary colors and the black and white and the mix of these colors, you can obtain the other colors, the secondary colors. I decided after my research to make the correspondence of the primary color to a symbol, a graphic symbol as you can see here, the red, yellow and the blue. When you the same time you mix the colors to obtain the other colors. If you mix yellow and red, you obtain the orange.

With the symbol of the yellow and the symbol of the red, you obtain the simple of the orange. With only three symbols in all the products, the color blind people can identify the colors. They don’t see the colors, there now exists for color blindness. They can understand, they can identify because … This is the concept and it’s a certain kind of a new language, universal language you can understand here in Portugal or in the other side of the world as you were at this moment.

Jürgen: Yeah that’s right because it’s a very visual language, right?

Miguel: Yes.

Jürgen: A series of symbols that … The genius I think is the design of the symbols so that they can be combined very easily.

Miguel: Yes and they can be understand for everyone.

Jürgen: Yeah, yeah. You’ve mentioned crayons and ink samples at school. That’s one of the application where you now have some commercial attraction with this system. You have crayons and pencils that are labeled.

Miguel: Yes. The pencils, the color pencils is one of the, a lot of products existing at this moment. After I developed this language, this new project, this new language, only can be effective in the market if they use the process to cope in different products. For example, you talk about the color pencils. This is a company who produce color pencils and they put the symbols on the pencils to guarantee the correct interpretation of the color. My main goal in this process is include without discrimination. I don’t want to create a project for color blind people, no. This is for all the people. That color blind can identify the color. The color pencils, it’s one of the more than to handle in different products we are in use at this moment.

Jürgen: OK. That’s quite a lot, right?

Miguel: Yes.

Jürgen: One of the more, I guess more visible ones around that I’ve noticed on the web is the transport system in Porto, right? It’s the color coding of the various lines, the various trains lines has been, the symbols have been added to that.

Miguel: Yes. It’s part of the program I developed for testing of the project. I need to create a different classes in different areas to testing – if the solution is already good or not. I use in commerce Portugal, in the Portuguese company to testing the project. In the transport areas as you said, we’re testing the projects, now here in Portugal when all the lines in the metro are differentiate by the colors. Nowadays they use the code to guarantee the correct implementation of the colors of different lines. We don’t have to forget the 10% of the male population is color blind and the man is the guy who don’t want to stop to ask for information. They need all the independence of this activity.

Not only the transport but in the hospitals when lines to orient the person for different service.

Jürgen: Yeah that’s right, because they use colors on the ground, right?

Miguel: On the floor, yes.

Jürgen: Yeah, so that’s great, yeah. What do you do on a day-to-day basis within ColorAdd?

Miguel: Sorry?

Jürgen: What do you do on a day-to-day basis within ColorAdd? What’s your role now?

Miguel: My role now is to guarantee the correct implementation of this project in the whole world. It’s only in the world makes sense, I work in this project to support the companies, the entities to correct integration of the code in the product or in their supports. I create NGO to work with the schools, nowadays in different schools the code is already new, is teaching by ColorAdd. You can hear me?

Jürgen: Yeah, it’s come back now, but it was breaking up there a little bit. We’ve got something about the NGO.

Miguel: We are working in the schools to testing all the kids are not color blind to work with the, to guarantee the correct integration to all the kids in the school. This is my daily life in the last five years and it’s very grateful.

Jürgen: OK, now that’s good. How do you generate, what’s the business model basically? How do you generate income for the business?

Miguel: This is very interesting because I’m a designer as I told you, I’m a graphic designer and I always believe the design can create a better world not only to the globe but beautiful products, but they have the mission to guarantee an inclusive and accessible world for all. The process in this case, this project, they need to guarantee our sustainability in all the, all my team because we are working in this process, five persons total time. We develop social business model.

For example, the companies have a little fee to use the code in their products. If they have products to integrate the color and the color is an important factor to promote their products. The value of this fee is just for the dimension of the company. For example, a little software company here in Portugal pays a little fee. Microsoft, they pay a big fee for example. This is just for all the companies and the deal is not exclusive for anyone because we want to go to the whole world. We use the companies to transport this concept for all world – and this is our business model and we are working as, nowadays it’s very common to hear the co-creation program.

We work with our partners in co-creation because they transport the symbol in their product. They bring a new concept, a social value for the company or from the society and we work not only as in the past situation – we said win-win project, win-win process because there’s a lot of benefit for all in this concept.

Jürgen: Yeah, yeah. That’s a really neat model. How do you generate new sales? How do you get the word out about this invention and all the possible applications?

Miguel: Sorry?

Jürgen: How do you get the word out about, the information about your invention and where it can find application and generate new business for that?

Miguel: Now we are working in the last six months after we developed all the clusters, all the concepts here in Portugal with Portuguese companies, now we are working to guarantee the correct integration into nationalization of this concept in all the world. We have three ways to this genre. One of them is by the conferences, the media who publish the project and the ColorAdd code in different countries. Another is by the products of the Portuguese companies and the other one is by the international companies.

For example, nowadays we are in Japan, for example for a Japanese company in the United States, they know the code of the concept in the internet. Internet is very important in this process because they joined, bring to us all the worlds and we can go to do all the world in the short time. It’s very, very important for us, the internet, they approach the people.

Jürgen: Yeah, so you’re making use of technology to grow new technology.

Miguel: Yes, it’s the one way we have to approach and to make the process quickly and effectively a good process.

Jürgen: Yeah. What do you say is the biggest challenges in growing this business?

Miguel: The biggest challenge is approach to seven billions of people. In fact this 15,000 of millions of color blind people in the world, and I don’t see what they have because they don’t have a stamp in head, I’m color blind. I have to touch in seven billion of people who include without discrimination and this is our biggest challenge and I believe it is possible. Nowadays we can change the world for a better world because the society are feeling that the, for example the money is not the only, they don’t have a lot, the biggest importance because the people who the important in all these society our challenges lift the color to all the people.

Jürgen: Yeah, that’s a very noble goal to aspire to.

Miguel: I believe in this situation.

Jürgen: In some ways it’s probably getting the system in as a new language for everyone at school when they first learn about colors to also know about the symbols.

Miguel: Yeah. this is as I read in the newspaper a few months ago. This is like a new experiment because people can understand about this new language in the whole world and now it’s already news, this learning the different schools and all the program we are working in the schools, it’s not only to guarantee the correct understanding of the concept of the code because they don’t serve only the color blind people. Now we are working with blind people, we are working with the three dimension solution for the blind people can feel the color, it’s amazing.

We are working with the autism people because they need a simple solution, a simple tool to understand the different support of the color addiction, it’s very interesting. We are working with all the kids. It’s important not only to understand they exist, different people, different kids who sort the colors in different ways. It’s very interesting because they need a tangible support to understand the concept of their addiction. It’s most like a symbol to guarantee the correct concept of the color addiction. It’s very, very interesting.

Jürgen: Yes, so it’s really about starting the education process very young, isn’t it?

Miguel: Yes. It’s very young children. They only have four years of visible life because I developed the concept, the research, they’re in eight years but its only, its four years ago I showed a project. In four yours we have a lot of work in this process.

Jürgen: Yeah, that’s pretty amazing. It’s been an amazing journey as well so that there’s a lot of prizes and awards that you’ve won also for this concept. One of them I guess which is probably very prestigious one, is the Galileo magazine has named your invention as one of the top 40 that will change the world. Congratulations on that.

Miguel: Yes. It’s amazing because the project won a lot of prizes in different areas and if you ask me, I’m waiting for these prizes. The prizes and the awards is a consequence of a good work made with a lot of passion. I have a delight to wake up every day with a lot of passion to work. I love my job. The words, it’s very interesting because we are working in different areas. I’m a fellow from Ashoka. Ashoka is the most important international organization of the social entrepreneurs in social area, is support this new language. The zero project is a project by United Nation for the good accessibility; the good practice is the social area to support the project. All the different awards the project of recognizing of this new language is for us bring us a lot of motivation to continue to make it this way.

Jürgen: Yes, yeah. You see the value to it and recognition by peers and influential organizations like the UN as international channel.

Miguel: Yeah.

Jürgen: Yeah, that’s great. All right. What do you do when you’re not working on ColorAdd?

Miguel: What do you mean ColorAdd?

Jürgen: what do you do to kind of balance?

Miguel: I stay with my friends and my family I think the people is the most important thing in this world because when I don’t work, I work with my family and with my friends.

Jürgen: OK, that’s fun. If you had a magic wand and it could fix one thing in the business, what would you fix?

Miguel: Maybe to guarantee the correct and the quick way to bring this code to seven billion of people to guarantee the quick integration in the society to color blind people.

Jürgen: OK. What do you see as risks and opportunities in sort of going out on the limitations as you have with this as being innovative and trying something completely different to solve a problem.

Miguel: I don’t understand what … The?

Jürgen: What do you see as the risks involved and the opportunity cost involved in doing something completely different to solve a problem in terms of a business sense? You may be going off on a tangent or I don’t know.

Miguel: Yes. I don’t want to talk about risks, I prefer calling them challenge because I work completely in innovation supports. The biggest challenge is the problem to be on the front line of the situation. Always I say I don’t have problems and I don’t have risk in this project. I have the biggest challenge all days I work with different challenge because we are working in a new way to live this new experiment to work well. It’s very, very good. I don’t think risk exists.

Jürgen: No risks, yeah I love it. All right well let’s move onto what I call a buzz which is our innovation around and it’s a series of five or six questions. Hopefully you will have a really great answer for our audience and they learn from your experience. Essentially it’s designed to help our audience who are primarily innovators in their particular field and particularly in the area of the internet of things and you have to learn from your experience. The first question in that round is what’s the number one thing you think anyone needs to do to be more innovative?

Miguel: Creative and crazy, that’s work with passion. I usually say I don’t want to work only with, or don’t create only with my head but with my heart to think.

Jürgen: That’s great, great advice, I really love that. What’s the best thing you’ve done to develop new ideas?

Miguel: Maybe I believe in my idea and that’s well a simple and honest concept to guarantee the correct interpretation. If the idea and the support is simple and honest, concept to make the others believe too in my idea. I want to transport all the concepts for different people and this I believe we work simple, honest and for all and share of our ideas.

Jürgen: Yeah, that’s really good and I think ColorAdd embodies all of that, I really see that then. That’s great. Do you have any tool you use for developing new innovation or keeping track of projects or innovations?

Miguel: Yes as I told you. The passion and maybe here I put the design methodology not design support but of the concept of the methodology of the design.

Jürgen: OK, yeah, that’s great. Certainly ColorAdd and the colors that you’re working with is very visual, so the design aspect there is very obvious. What’s the best way to keep a project on track that you found?

Miguel: Maybe working, yes with our partners, with our old people who want to stay with us in this process, project, work with them side by side always the time, working side by side.

Jürgen: Working in cooperation and of course communication I guess is a very important part of that. Yeah. Finally what’s the number one thing anyone can do to differentiate themselves.

Miguel: Be serious, honest and work with passion and working for the people and with the people. I think this is a good support.

Jürgen: Yeah. There’s a theme there, I thought you were going to say work with passion again because I can recognize the theme now.

Miguel: Sorry, sorry but you tell me and …

Jürgen: Its fine.

Miguel: I said what I feel and this is what I feel.

Jürgen: No, I think we are getting the picture here and this is what I …

Miguel: I believe in this passion, yes.

Jürgen: OK. what’s the future for you and for ColorAdd?

Miguel: Future is reaching to seven billion of people and promote a better world for all, working with the creation as I said with our partners and share this win-win concept. I think this is our future.

Jürgen: Yeah. well that’s great. Thank you for all of that. Now I just want to come back to our competition for our viewers and listeners and as I said the price today is a copy of the book Eric the Red Sea’s Green and it’s a story of a child that discovers in his art class that he is in fact color blind. How his parents, his friends and his teachers then help him to deal with that and help him to be the best he can be with his unique way of seeing.

What I thought as we were talking here today, what we could do is if you leave a comment underneath this video in the blog post and tell Miguel how he can best reach those seven billion people with his new system so that in his words, passion and equality for everybody so that everybody has access to this tool. How best can he reach those? All ideas are welcome. Hopefully there will be a number of ideas there that can be helpful to you Miguel and I’ll get you to come back in a few weeks time and have a look and award that prize. Is that OK?

Miguel: Yeah, right.

Jürgen: OK finally then, what’s the number one piece of advice you would give anyone who wants to be a leader in their field, in innovation in coming up with bringing products like you have?

Miguel: Sorry, repeat again, but the first piece of advice, I work, I think we need to work for the people and with the people not for the money and for the money. The profit is a natural result of a good job. I think now we have to create a good valorization of the person, of the people and the result is good for all of course.

Jürgen: Yeah, yeah, great advice that is. Really good advice and do what you’re really passionate about I think is the other message that’s coming through, right?

Miguel: It’s the best way to wake up in the morning.

Jürgen: Yeah. Who do you think I should interview next on the podcast and why?

Miguel: Good – for example Mark Zuckerberg.

Jürgen: Oh Mark Zuckerberg?

Miguel: Facebook. you know why?

Jürgen: Why?

Miguel: Because he is color blind.

Jürgen: He is color blind, OK.

Miguel: Yes, the Facebook is blue because Zuckerberg is color blind and the most biggest problem of color blind people is the confusion with the red and green. I said Zuckerberg because I want to approach him and put the color red on Facebook pages because in this way I remember, oh yes, Zuckerberg is great because he’s color blind. It’s a good challenge.

Jürgen: OK, I’ll edit this one in, but Mark Zuckerberg look out, I’m actually coming to get you to see Miguel Nieva.

Miguel: OK. I invite you and the systems of the audience of the podcast to visit our Facebook page for example, our website is very interesting because all days we put on the page a different new ideas, different new implementation of the codes, what happened everyday with the ColorAdd code in different areas for interest and share of course.

Jürgen: Yeah, yeah, well I’ll put links to your Facebook page and also to your website underneath the blog post so that everybody visits those.

Miguel: OK.

Jürgen: All right Miguel, it’s been really great to have you on the podcast. I really appreciate the time you’ve spent with us and I wish you all the best with ColorAdd. I really look forward to seeing how this progresses and seeing the new applications come out and seeing you reach the seven billion people.

Miguel: Yes.

Jürgen: Thank you very much.

Miguel: Thank you.

Jürgen: Yeah. Bye bye.

Miguel: Bye. See you. Thank you.


I hope you enjoyed meeting Miguel as much as I enjoyed interviewing him on the podcast.

PASSION – that’s the key message that Miguel gave us today and he certainly is passionate about his invention and making a difference for his customers – thereby improving their lives.

Of course, you can subscribe to this Podcast via iTunes or Stitcher, so that you’ll never miss a future episode.

All the show notes for this episode will be at innovabiz.com.au/miguelnieva, that is M-I-G-U-E-L-N-I-E-V-A, all lowercase, all one word, innovabiz.com.au/miguelnieva for all of the links and everything we spoke about in this episode. Remember, leave your comments underneath the video for your chance to win a copy of Erik the Red Sees Green by Julie Anderson and Cornelius Spilman.

Leave a comment under the video and give Miguel suggestions on how he can reach a big global audience with his system. the more suggestions, the better. I’ll get Miguel to swing by in a few weeks and award that prize to the entry he likes best.

Miguel suggested I interview Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, on a future podcast, because Mark is red-green color blind and would have a special insight into today’s topic. So, Mark, I know you are a busy guy, but we’d love to have you on the InnovaBuzz podcast, so keep an eye on your Inbox for an invitation from me!

If you like these podcast episodes, head over to iTunes and give us a five star review. It really does help to get more listeners and to share this information with a bigger audience. …..

So, Until next time. Remember, if you don’t innovate, you stagnate, so think big, be adventurous and keep innovating!

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Jürgen Strauss

Dr. Jürgen Strauss is The World's Best Human-Centred Podcasting Coach and the only Podcast Innovator with the signature bright yellow headphones, who masterfully crafts human connection for high-impact achievers in a vibrant community. You can find Jürgen on LinkedIn, The InnovaBuzz Podcast, The Flywheel Nation Community as well as on Innovabiz' InstagramTwitter, Facebook pages and his personal Photography website.  

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