My Project Journal
Not much to add to the previous posts, but we have a bunch of actual pages for the braille project ready, and we got some of them printed for testing.
Some of the pages have been printed in all black on accident – which is the usual mode for tactile pages. While it was a bit annoying at first, it made us aware that we need to be very clear about communicating the intention of the red text, and add printing instructions accordingly.
Now that I understand how microcapsule paper works, it’s time to get a bit nerdy with material science.
Most blind students in Austria attend regular schools, so they will have sighted people around them. This is why we decided to try and make the materials work better for this integrative approach by including the text in schwarzschrift (literally black print, I don’t think this term exists in English so I’ll stick to the German) too. Schwarzschrift here, for us, is red though. There’s technical reasons for that, but maybe I need to explain how swell paper works first.
The basic idea is simple: Microcapsule paper, or swell paper, reacts to heat. It is being printed on like regular paper, but after printing it is put through a machine (the fuser) that heats paper up using infrared light. When the infrared light hits the printed pigment, the paper underneath the pigment gets hot enough to swell up (It’s a bit like popcorn).
Since the swelling is caused by a combination of black pigment on the special paper and infrared light, changing parameters means it is possible to print content that won’t puff up when put through the fuser. Specifically, red ink absorbs less infrared light and heat and therefore doesn’t make the paper swell up.
So why is this a good idea? Braille has a very low density of information, so one page can fit much less text than it would with schwarzschrift. Space on a Braille page is precious, so we do not want to take up space with text that doesn’t need to be tactile. Additionally, having the schwarzschrift parts swell up would be confusing when reading the Braille and tactile graphics.
If the schwarzschrift text does not swell up in the production process, it can just exist in the white space of the tactile page. Reliably being able to have content that swells and content that does not means we can make the most out of the limited space we have available while still providing all the information for different readers: It simply adds another layer of information that is imperceptible for those who don’t need it.
My new design project is interesting. It mostly consists of maths and programming, combined with social research. After that, finally, some layouting and typesetting – but the final product will not necessarily look pretty. That’s alright though, since it’s not made to be looked at: We are working on teaching materials for blind and visually impaired students. More specifically, a graphics catalogue to be used in high school maths education.
And this is exactly why I love being a designer: Getting to make things that work, no matter how contradictory the requirements may seem initially.
I’m really looking forward to working on this project. I have never used swell paper before I was approached with this project, but it’s an exciting material. It makes it possible to create tactile graphics with a standard printer and a special device to actually make the print tactile.
The first step is testing the properties of the material we are working with so I can get a feeling for it. We are closely working with both blind students and teachers to learn the basics about tactile graphics and typesetting in Braille, but also about the Braille system itself.
Next up: learning how to actually read Braille.
Nachdem der erste Sticker so gut ankommt, ist direkt ein zweiter entstanden.
Der aktuelle politische Diskurs ist unglaublich laut, und gleichzeitig werden viele immer stiller.
Im Sinne der Metakommunikativen Axiome nach Paul Watzlawick et al.: Man kann nicht nicht kommunizieren.
Es ist Zeit darüber nachzudenken, was wir mit unserer Stimme eigentlich bewirken – oder eben nicht. Und ob was wir tun auch wirklich in unserem Sinne ist.
Macht was Schönes damit falls ihr mögt, und wenn ihr euch wegen der Lizenz unsicher seid könnt ihr mich auch gerne kontaktieren.