Graphic Design for the Blind

Can a systematic investigation and codification of sensually expressive textures and shapes lead to a non-visual typography, or a graphic design for the blind?

The study lasted 18 months starting in 2012. I worked with an art group from the Dundee Blind and Partially Sighted Society making crafts and doing workshops in colouring, tactile painting and printmaking. These exercises were popular.

I presented my ideas about enhanced Braille to them, doing so in a way that related to making those arts and crafts. With etching and intaglio plates, embossments and fabrics of various textures as examples, I talked about texture as expression and asked what emotional responses different textures might elicit. The response to my ideas about texture and expression were well received, but of even more interest was how images were transferred from plate to paper, reinforcing my exploration of printmaking and creative practice. But, once put into the context of Braille, interest waned.

I wanted to create a system for Braille that paralleled contemporary typography. Their response was negative. Form follows function. It does what it needs to do. No improvement is needed.

With Graphic Design for the Blind, I proposed a solution for a problem that did not exist. My interactions with the craft group made obvious that there was no local interest in enhanced Braille. But, my explorations of decorative Braille allowed me to broaden my original audience.  The themes of religion and Biblical text and ‘The Word’ also engaged me as did print and printmaking. Hidden and camouflaged messages also presented itself as ripe for investigation. How and who might reveal or perceive those messages becomes intriguing and drove the next phases of research.

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