April 20, 2007

Touch, But Don't Look.

One of the really great things about working in a big city, for me, is adapting to the social rhythms of the people. People stand on the left side of the escalator and walk on the right. People dress a certain way. People talk about certain newspapers. People nurture a keen interest in the culinary landscape of the metro area. People don't look one another in the eye for any extended period of time.

This morning boarded a metro car en route to the office and slipped into a seat next to a woman. I mechanically made no eye contact (tourist season is picking up and I don't want to appear as though I don't know what I'm doing--people laugh at tourists behind their backs when the do dumb things, people exchange tourist stories at the water cooler). At one point along the ride she dropped her newspaper. I went to pick it up for her but she beat me to it. At first I wondered if she was so disgusted with me that she couldn't let another person touch her paper. Maybe she's a germ freak or something. I looked over her shoulder to catch a headline or two only to find a lone masthead on a blank page.

Her fingers skimmed across the braille, stopping occasionally to reread a word or find the right line. Her motions were absolutely captivating. When she turned the page to read the left side of the spread she left the periodical half folded with the page resting face down on her hand. She opened the paper wider when it came time to start on the right-hand-read.

Initially I was really impressed with how quickly she could skim the pages with oddly curled middle and ring fingers. Then the designer side of me took over and couldn't believe that there was nothing to the manuscript at all. The paper must have been a heavier weight regular matte white bond, roughly 12x14" format, perfect bound, and a pretty wide gutter margin between the spine and the lines of little bumps. The whole tactile experience of it must have been very bland. True, good design gets out of the way of the message, but total disregard for the sensuous experience isn't very satisfying; it doesn't make you want the message.

So I've been thinking about what it would take to design for the blind. If I were designing a brochure for the Cherry Blossom Festival (for example) how would someone know simply by touching the piece that it is a spring event? How would the feel of the paper communicate the delicate fall of pink confetti across the steps of the Jefferson Memorial? What about the shape or weight would call to mind the Japanese influence on the landscape--before the fingers find the first word? Is there a commercial printer out there that offers a line of scented inks?

I managed to find one or two sources on making design accessible to the visually impaired. I'm interested in doing my own research into the specifics of how the average human perceives with touch.

I'm also interested in whether braille is as malleable as typography. I assume that a magazine article for the blind about grain could be spelled out using embossed barley-shaped braille dots (the way that one might substitute an apple for the letter "O" in a word). Is braille ever set in different font sizes?

Posted by timf at 11:32 AM | Comments (3)

April 11, 2007

Travel Tip #286: Schedule Ample Time for Delays

1) go to Google Maps

2) click on the "Get Directions" tab

3) type "New York" in the first empty form field

4) type "London" in the second empty form field

5) click on the "Get Directions" button

6) closely follow directions (especially step #23)

Travel Tip #12: Make photocopies of your passport and other important identification documents to keep in luggage, purses, carry-ons, and on your person (in case your passport is lost or stolen). Store them in waterproof plastic bags.

Posted by timf at 12:20 PM | Comments (3)

April 06, 2007

Long Live the Swiss!

And a very merry birthday to you!

Posted by timf at 09:16 PM | Comments (3)