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A comic book for the blind using circles of different sizes.

While blind people have been able to read with Braille for over a hundred and fifty years, it has never been possible to directly translate the visual. The comic book is an incredibly popular medium among people with sight, but short of describing the scene in Braille, blind people have to go without. This is why design student, Philipp Meyer, decided to create a comic book for the blind, which, as you can imagine, was no easy task.

Different perceptions

Meyer says, “It was very challenging. I had many breakdowns during the whole process because it was so difficult to come up with an appropriate representation of the comic medium. I didn’t want to just translate normal comics into embossed images; that didn’t seem adequate to me because a blind person perceives the world differently.”

The comic is a medium that goes on very much in your mind

Meyer wanted to create a comic that both sighted and blind people could understand. This meant that it had to be understood both visually as well as by touch. For this to work the story had to be simple.

Meyer says, “I tried to make it so people could understand the theme of the story through the title, which is Life, in which a person grows up, another person comes into his life, they have intercourse, have a child, then the child leaves home etc..”

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A couple having intercourse.

Circles

Meyer used the same embossed method as Braille to allow a blind person to feel the symbols. To keep it as simple as possible only circles were used, with each one representing a character in the story. Each circle varies in height and size – for example, the height of the first circle gets lower towards the centre to distinguish it from the others. Each panel’s frame is perforated so blind people are able to distinguish between each scene.

The scenes simply communicate a story that everybody can understand. For example, in one panel, the two circles overlap, which indicates two people are having intercourse. In the next scene there are three circles – the new one being very small – to show that the couple have had a child.

A blind person perceives the world differently

However, Meyer also wanted to keep it open to interpretation. He says, “I tried to keep it as open as possible. That is why, on the website for example, there is only a black and white version because I wanted to keep it gender neutral. So it could be a lesbian couple who adopt a child and that child grows up.”

Nota

Meyer is studying Interaction Design at Potsdam University of Applied Sciences but his study for this project has led him to Denmark. He says, “At the very beginning of this project, when I presented the idea in class, I got this tip that there was a library for the blind people called Nota in Copenhagen.”

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Their child is half like one parent and half like the other.

He continues, “It is a state-owned organization that produces Braille books as well as audio books and audio comic books. It was very good for me because through them I got in contact with some blind people and I could use their facilities as well, like their special printers that I wouldn’t otherwise have access to.”

For Meyer, this particular project, which is quite far removed from his actual field of study, is a one-off but he hopes it could act as launch pad for further research into this area by others.

He says, “I don’t know if I will take it further but I will be glad if it finds some use in education or something because I think the comic is a medium that goes on very much in your mind anyway – it is what is in between the panels that is the important thing. Maybe it could be used for some reasonable projects to help better understand the three-dimensionality of objects.”


For more information go to Life


For related articles on Humans Invent please read:

Money No Object: Paying with physical gestures

Goedzak: Changing the way we recycle

Grow up! Bringing vertical farming to London

The solar oven making salt water drinkable

The Sea Chair: Using beach waste to design

Life saving design: The earthquake-proof table

The pedal powered washing machine changing lives

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