Braille

A Designer Turned Braille Into Beautiful Fonts for the Blind

Good typography is more than good design; it is a good experience. That’s why our Pinterest feeds are filled with so many variations of hand-lettering, unique fonts, and calligraphy; we just can’t get enough of those beautifully illustrated quotes or excerpts of text. Why? Because the shapes of letters and simple design details add character and personality to the words depicted, enhancing the reading experience.

But what happens when you can read, but you can’t see? The blind interact with one universal typographic alphabet: the simple dots of braille. While functional, they provide no interesting variation, no unique reading experience.

Portland-based designer Deon Staffelbach of d30n Design began to reflect on this conundrum. A proponent of typographic design, he wondered: Could the physical properties of braille be altered to reflect typographic design, and could it provide the same joyful experience?

He decided to explore this idea, creating a braille typography series made of different shapes—stars, pyramids, and hearts—that provide tactical variation with an element of whimsy. He has created three unique fonts, each of which convey their own personality.

CONSTELLATION

“I call this braille font Constellation, because of the patterns it makes when text is written out. I’m sure a braille reader would be familiar with the basic shapes, and hopefully find some humor and delight in touching a group of stars that form a line of text. It would also be interesting to see an increase or decrease on the emboss on some words to act as light or bold faces,” Staffelbach says in his project description.

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For a little meta experimentation, Staffelbach created samples with quotes that relate to each unique font.

The page reads: “Star light, Star bright, First star I see tonight.”

The page reads: “Star light, Star bright, First star I see tonight.”

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PYRAMID

“If one could argue that something like a star would be too complex of a shape, or the face of a beveled star too flat for a braille typeface. Then why not take the classic braille dot, and reshape it into a point using a pyramid? The area of contact with the fingertip would be well defined, yet it would still conform to the necessary grid to make the letterforms of the alphabet,” he says.

The page features an excerpt from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, which reads: “Not a perfect soul, I am perfecting. Not a human being, I am a human becoming.”

The page features an excerpt from the Egyptian Book of the Dead: “Not a perfect soul, I am perfecting. Not a human being, I am a human becoming.”

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LOVE

“I think this could make a nice card for a person with or without sight; everyone can certainly get the message,” Staffelbach says.

This page reads: “Love”

This page reads: “Love”

Of course, while the designs are beautiful, Staffelbach wants them to be practical. He suggests that unique materials, such as foil or varnish, may provide tactile variation to denote elements like bold characters.

Additionally, he is intrigued by the idea of how this may be used off the page. The blind do not experience tattoos the way the seeing do, but with technology and the increasing popularity of body modification, these braille fonts may allow them to experience tattoos in a unique way.

The tattoo reads: "Love the one you’re with.”

The tattoo reads: “Love the one you’re with.”

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Vertically the tattoo reads: “Seeing is not always believing.”

For more about the concept and project, check out Staffelbach’s blog and follow him on Twitter.

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