2598: Graphic Designers

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Graphic Designers
They might make it past that first line of defense. For the second, you'll need some picture frames, a level, and a protractor that can do increments of less than a degree.
Title text: They might make it past that first line of defense. For the second, you'll need some picture frames, a level, and a protractor that can do increments of less than a degree.


Cueball is inviting Knit Cap into his newly repainted residence. Knit Cap is a graphic designer and he simply can't enter because of the color scheme used. The caption explains that if you paint each wall a slightly different shade of off-white, a graphic designer will be so repulsed that they are physically unable to enter the room. This is analogous with a specific bit of vampire lore: Vampires cannot enter a dwelling uninvited.

Being presented with visual information that is just not quite right is known to cause feelings of unease and revulsion, particularly when presented with CGI human faces, a concept known as the uncanny valley.

In the title text, it mentions a contingency against the designer managing to actually overcome this disgust. In this case, Cueball sets up a second way to troll his graphic designer friend using some picture frames, a level, and a protractor that can measure increments of less than a degree. Cueball can then skew his picture frames by an extremely small amount, noticeable only to the designer friend, to disgust him even further — similar to the effect of bad kerning. This could thus be applied like the use of crosses or garlic, which vampires are famously repulsed by.

Although the window ledges are slightly inclined, falling subtly from left to right, it is unlikely this is a deliberate aspect of the room so much as a side-effect of Randall's imprecise stick-figure drawing style.


Oversaturated version

True to the comic's joke, Randall has actually colored each segment of the comic differently to each other, even though normal persons would just perceive all walls as slightly gray (off-white). The hexadecimal color codes are:


[Cueball stands in a lightly adorned room of a house, facing an open doorway. Each surface is painted an almost imperceptibly different shade of off-white, except the floor which is white. There is a rug, a couch with a pillow (white) and a book. There are two windows, in the right there is a potted plant. Knit Cap stands in the open doorway, as if about to enter the house, one foot at the threshold, but not on the floor inside. Cueball is reaching towards the doorway, inviting Knit Cap to enter.]
Cueball: Come on in! We just repainted.
Knit Cap: I... can't.
[Caption below the panel:]
If you want to set up a vampire-style barrier to keep graphic designers from entering your house, just paint every surface a slightly different shade of off-white.

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I think a better analogy would be with garlic. The threshold barrier is a magical force that blocks them, while vampires just find garlic really off-putting. Barmar (talk) 04:12, 26 March 2022 (UTC)

Depends on the lore. In some settings garlic is entirely ineffective (example: World of Darkness) and in other it's outright poisonous/harmful (example: Dresdenverse Black Court). Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 11:16, 28 March 2022 (UTC)

Anyone think we should add the hex color codes of all the walls to the explanation? Barmar (talk) 04:23, 26 March 2022 (UTC)

I suspect Randall didn't ACTUALLY use different colours in this comic. :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:42, 26 March 2022 (UTC):
I've just gone over the comic with a colour picker... I have bad and/or good news: You are incorrect. Tantusar (talk) 04:52, 26 March 2022 (UTC)
Yup, should have known, LOL! I see as suggested (which in such case I totally agree) someone added the different colours, and wonderful touch with the saturation picture. I had figured he'd make a slightly bigger difference so someone with a good eye (like myself) could spot SOMETHING. But I forgot how Randall gets into "You need graphic software" territory, LMAO! NiceGuy1 (talk) 22:58, 26 March 2022 (UTC)
I can't see any difference but I bow to your greater geekery Kev (talk) 16:57, 26 March 2022 (UTC)
Why can I clearly see the difference despite not using graphic software, this is too effective aaaaaaaa Birb (talk) 05:52, 22 December 2023 (UTC)
HE'S A GRAPHIC DESIGNER, GET HIM! Me[citation needed] 03:15, 5 May 2024 (UTC)

Hey! As of tonight I'm caught up on XKCD for the first time in 2 years! I read them at the bar, at karaoke, and my last time out before staying in for the pandemic was mid-March 2020. I needed to share. :) First comic reading it ON the release day in that long. NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:42, 26 March 2022 (UTC)

Hey, Randall! You made the floor FFFFFF, but that isn't a shade of off-white. It's just white. Nitpicking (talk) 09:12, 26 March 2022 (UTC)

Who paints the floor, anyway? Varnish, maybe, in a suitably wooden-floored residential situation, but not paint. But I'd say it's (however, whether carpet or laminate or whatever) that is the white from which all the other whites are suitably 'off-'...
(Also, the 'innocuous things that repel' vibe reminds me of the end-game for the vampire family in Carpe Jugulum, after being inadvertently highly trained to appreciate religious symbology.) 09:28, 26 March 2022 (UTC)
This DOES specify "walls", :) As it is, it's nuts he included the rug. NiceGuy1 (talk) 22:58, 26 March 2022 (UTC)
No it says every surface. So actually the floor should have been off-white as well since it is a surface. --Kynde (talk) 19:24, 27 March 2022 (UTC)
Yeah, I should REALLY confirm the wording before I say such things, LOL! In my defence, we can't see the comic when adding a comment, :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 01:00, 2 April 2022 (UTC)

My dentist will not allow off-white colours in the front room of his house because the colour is too much like work related thoughts. He has told his wife that she can choose any colour style as long as it does not include off-white. (My hobby is to ask people how their job changes aspects of their non-job life.) Punchcard (talk) 12:54, 26 March 2022 (UTC)

Could have been one of Randall's hobbies...--Kynde (talk) 19:24, 27 March 2022 (UTC)

It would be helpful to add a version of the comic with the color saturation cranked up, like this: https://i.imgur.com/gMpmJlp.png . However, I cannot upload images. Also note that the window ledges have their own colors, too. Hknl (talk) 14:48, 26 March 2022 (UTC)

Got there before me. I was going to do a version of my own (fullest saturation, probably) as soon as I was on something sensible like my desktop with good old GIMP.
PS... That's surprisingly close to a (muted) accumulation of my house colour-scheme, minus a few others I also used. Though not in the same room. Frexample, the walls of my hallway and stairs are Etruscan Orange (no, I don't know what makes it Etruscan, but that was the paint name!) while those in the adjoining living room are Lime Green. The ceilings and smirting-boards tend to be standard white, but the covings are matching-but-darker hues of the walls. I'm planning the repainting/redecorating of another property and I'm using the 20-odd years living within the above pallette (with no complaints, but maybe additional or alternative ideas) to perhaps be a bit more adventurous in some places. Like trying graduated countershading/hue-shifting in some corners... ;) 16:15, 26 March 2022 (UTC)
Hi, got here first with paint.net :) Kev (talk) 17:08, 26 March 2022 (UTC)
Interesting colour distribution, if I didn't somehow mess up the conversion in a scratch script I made. Here's the number of pixels (that are not black/white/grey; i.e. 260,817 out of the entire 517,470 present in the _2x image) that inhabit each hue-position.
Colour Sextant 0+60n 10+60n 20+60n 30+60n ... 40+60n ... 50+60n
Red->Yellow 0° x 544 n/a 20° x69 30° x29955 n/a 40° x31 n/a n/a
Yellow->Green 60° x 766 n/a 80° x 4 90° x13962 96° x1514 100° x91 105° x48 n/a
Green->Cyan 120° x23188 n/a n/a 150° x 6790 n/a 160° x 2 n/a n/a
Cyan->Blue 180° x91337 n/a n/a 210° x72433 n/a n/a n/a n/a
Blue->Magenta n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Meganta->Red 300° x 1093 n/a 320° x93 330° x18801 n/a 340° x96 n/a n/a
It looks like Randall used mostly 10-degree spots (two were not), in fact actually even more restricted to the combination of 20-degree spots plus the 30-degree ones, and nothing at all in the whole 'Blue>Red'-dominant segment. I rounded some to the nearest degree, but my initial figures were all no more than 4x10-13 away from whole numbers, which is probably just the level of precision achievable with my ad-hoc calculations. I really ought to check that I've not reflected or rotated or otherwise messed up the hue calculation but I feel sure that the basic idea is correct. It shouldn't change the 'interesting coincidences', but could revise where the pattern actually lies. 22:03, 26 March 2022 (UTC)
He missed the ancient geek joke though. He should have just filled all shapes with #FFFFF2-#FFFFFF, in one bit increments, so that ALL surfaces would appear white to the human eye, but still be different.Seebert (talk) 16:04, 28 March 2022 (UTC)

Hey! Now that the saturated version is in, I note that the windows aren't included in the list of colours! I suspect each window frame matches each window ledge (which ARE mentioned for their angle). Looks to me like the left window is about the same pink as the front of the window seat, and the right window is the same tan as the left wall. NiceGuy1 (talk) 23:15, 26 March 2022 (UTC)

Well, nobody has done it in the past week so I checked this out on my computer and added them. And no, they weren't the same! NiceGuy1 (talk) 01:00, 2 April 2022 (UTC)

It might not be needed, but my hypernormalised version (all valid hues fully saturated) can be found here... it's the _2x version that I altered, if you'd prefer to know that before checking it. You can compare it to the currently off-linked 'increased saturation' image, and see that it 'rounded up' some areas of near- and nearer-white to basically the same values via my hue-only preservation while removing the whole shade subtlety. Like I said above, my house features much of a similar conglomoration of colours. ;) 05:49, 27 March 2022 (UTC)

Anyone who has made one of those pictures, that can allow us to download it and upload it to explain xkcd, so it is a permanent addition to this page, and not depending on the linked pages keeping the image? I can upload it if so. In case you do have a version that is yours to share, answer both here, but also in my talk page, or I might forget --Kynde (talk) 19:42, 27 March 2022 (UTC)

As the creator of the 'hypernormalised version' (not the best words, but my internal thinking about the process of going fully saturated), do whatever you want with it. I could flood you with loads of other versions (the ones that isolated just the saturation level, for example, so that I could then produce some reworked animated gifs of the scene I thought might be a good idea) but that'd be overkill. ;) 22:13, 27 March 2022 (UTC)
Thanks, could you make one we may use, that are closer to the one linked at present. I think your over saturated version is a bit too much. --Kynde (talk) 07:47, 28 March 2022 (UTC)
In reply to the above point, and a couple below:
  • When I'm back home on Friday, where the computer is that has the conversions (and scripts I fine-tuned to create them) I'll do a 50% saturation (or something) version.
  • The ceiling and adjacent wall are (practically) the same hue but different SV/SL combos (by HSV or HSL calculations). In both #F3F7F8 and #F2F3F4, the B-channel is valued one higher than the G. As they are both almost maximal, the degree of (smallest value) R doesn't significantly affect the final direction of the vector obtained by combining only the primary and secondary values, and is almost exactly the opposing direction (but not enough to invert the hue by ±180°, obviously) and so it's practically identical within rounding limits. Or so it seems to me.
  • In the (say) half-saturated version, or whatever proportion looks best to me (I'm no artist, hence I went for the absolute as one less thing to decide myself) I could put the relatively whiter #F2F3F4 (less red, but slightly more red in proportion to green/blue!) at quarter saturation, or whatever does it justice. (75% and 50%? 90% and 80%?)
  • For a batch of my personal 'for fun' transforms, I found out that the median Saturation of all validly-hued pixels was at roughly 0.015 (1.5%), or at least it was in my version - this of course includes darker anti-aliased pixels associated with the edges of the black lines, though does not count the strictly black/white/grey pixels themselves, wherever they appear.
  • (NB, I used HSV's version of S, not HSL's, because I emperically found that the L-controlled colourspace complicates things in ways that the V-controlled one does not, in this situation at least. See also chroma-radial biconic and conic 3d plots, respectively. I can't remember the threshold I found under HSL analysis, just that it was less useful/consistent when I tried to use it.)
  • From memory, the maximum Saturation was 11.1%, give or take, but only a handful of pixels, I forgot where they were. But by rewriting the target output hue as 240*9*saturation was an interesting transform to show where weird pixel-saturations happened, totally changing the scene, of course... ;)
  • If I used that 0.015 value as a threshold, I could 'separate' the ceiling and far wall in hue-bending ways (e.g. hue=hue+180° where Sat<0.015, or else hue=hue-offset° instead of +offset°; I used both, to good effect)... I think the box-seat-top was the only other major component this twisted, so I just had to stop that becoming too like the hue of its immediate neighbours and not encounter a different violation of the four-colour problem.
  • I made a number of animated gifs, mostly pyschedelic in nature. I won't subject you to them, but I'll perhaps recode the automation I used for that to ramp up and down from 'raw' to top-note maximised (keeping lightness in proportion for those that started less sarurated?) and back.
...or, given these few clues, any idiot with GIMP (or Photoshop?) can probably do a good enough job quickly enough with a few use of sliders, before I even get back to my homegrown scratch Perl code. I might even just do it in GIMP myself, but I think better in raw data and my own idea of the necessary transforms than with some pre-coded visual tools.
So, yeah, if any of that info is useful/comprehendable, you're welcome to it. I'll be back home on Friday, but until then I leave it up to people with actual artistic bones in their bodies, unlike myself. 19:36, 28 March 2022 (UTC)
Wow, overload ;-) We can wait till Friday if it is. Seems like someone would like to see a gif that ramps up the saturation gradually ;-) --Kynde (talk) 09:23, 29 March 2022 (UTC)
Sorry for the delay. Life got in the way. (Plus stupid coding errors, etc. Long story, short amount of interestingness.) ((PPE: and imgur has changed something recently, makes it very awkward to upload without the App, it seems. Still, pressing on.))
Wrestled with imgur (they've changed something... no I don't want the app, no I'm not interested in an account, I can't press 'Esc' because I'm on a tablet, or if I'm not on a tablet then it won't work with my latest-version desktop browser for... reasons, and no use trying to sync with Facebook/etc, I don't use it) and I think this link contains everything I promised (but not everything I actually made, for my own pleasure).
1) The 'optimal' linear multiple of saturation that I could (to my eye) produce. Not sure if it's objectively better or worse than what is already here, though.
2) A transitional GIF, with a homegrown hue/sat histogram of dubious quality, below. Some of the detail I thought might work got swallowed up by the GIF colour-table limitations after I'd made sure it looked Okish and had moved on.
3) An imperfect "one element at a time" highlighting (same histogram), but needs a bit more work. Also (as with with the prior GIF) there's the optical illusion of when a saturated colour disappears, the eye will see the desaturated area with the comparative opposite hue. ;)
...And I could have included more 'non-primary' colours into the membership table (the two Window-Frame groups actually have their most numerous) single pixel-type counts of less than three secondary colours (from Ceiling, Wall 1 and Wall 4) that are just artefacts of the original borderline antialiasing.
Incidentally, my tally of primary (classified) pixels with a hue are distributed as follows:
  • Wall 4, 85731 pixels, 32.8%
  • Wall 3, 46947 pixels, 18.0%
  • Ceiling, 38212 pixels, 14.6%
  • Wall 1, 29713 pixels, 11.4%
  • Door, 21305 pixels, 8.2%
  • Box Front, 18543 pixels, 7.1%
  • Box Top, 1482 pixels, 5.7%
  • Wall 2, 13597 pixels, 5.2%
  • Rug Inner, 7919 pixels, 3.0%
  • Rug Outer, 6492 pixels, 2.5%
  • Left Window, 336 pixels, ~0.1%
  • Right Window, 252 pixels, ~0.1%
(...yes, rounding errors do make that exceed 100%! I actually classified all but around 4000 of the 260k pixels before I decided I could have done it better by flood-fill testing in code, rather than hand-defining in my script.) 18:11, 3 April 2022 (UTC)
Interesting that both hypernormalized and increased saturation show the ceiling as being the same color as the far wall, which they clearly aren't, either to the naked eye, or by their listed hex codes. Would be nice to create a version that showed all the colors as distinct, perhaps by reducing to about 50% brightness while increasing contrast, to essentially equalize the histogram. -- 16:30, 28 March 2022 (UTC)

Is there a category of strips which use color? -- 16:30, 28 March 2022 (UTC)

Yes Category:Comics_with_color, to which this comic has already been linked. 19:36, 28 March 2022 (UTC)

What I'd love to see is a Animated GIF where we step the saturation up slowly, so folks can see when the notice the color shift. I could tell they were different, but I'd not have been able to tell you HOW until I saw full saturation. 16:52, 28 March 2022 (UTC)

Ultimately, the way this is stated makes it an inherently flawed analogy for a reason I'm surprised no one else has pointed out yet. Yes, you could compare being repelled by something aesthetically unpleasing to vampires avoiding things like crosses and garlic, but this is specifically about entering a house, and normally the primary thing preventing vampires from entering houses is needing to be invited, and in this instance they are unwilling to enter despite being explicitly invited in the shown dialogue. This would only be comparable if you compared it to making your whole house made out of or stuffed with garlic or something. Things that keep vampires at bay in a similar manner like crosses and garlic are usually either kept carried on you (like a cross normally), or kept near your bed, such as hanging off some strings around it, to protect you while sleeping (with garlic), and is different from the normal criteria of if they can simply walk through your front doors, which is contingent on an invitation from someone in the house, which a vampire would most likely overcome by either pretending to not be a vampire to be invited in for some false innocent seeming purpose, or using some sort of hypnosis ability like they sometimes are portrayed as having.-- 00:58, 29 March 2022 (UTC)

First... Remember Vampires don't exist, so it's hard to say what they would really do, as they never do anything irl. Second... Humans can enter a house without being invited, so that would of course not work on his friend, to just no invite him. But I guess the idea is to be polite and invite him in, and then prevent him from entering using this method, which normal people would likely not perceive or be annoyed by. So this would have the effect on the designer that not inviting a vampire into you hose. They will not enter! --Kynde (talk) 09:23, 29 March 2022 (UTC)

It's wild how you can kinda up and down the saturation if you just decide to perceive it all more or less like achromatic grey. 13:10, 6 August 2023 (UTC)