Monday, 19 November 2007

A Blind Perspective

I found this whilst trying to find out what it would be like to find your way around as a blind person. I think that is it a very original appoach, illustrating the visual images that may be imagined in the head of a blind person. However you have to wonder if someone os born blind how would they have any concept of shape, space and colour? Do they imagine anything? Do they dream, and if so of what?

Friday, 16 November 2007

Braile products

There is an enormous range of products that produce braile and tactile images. Least interesting of these are printers that print out the image embossed, or describe it with braile, or print text. Some of these are also equiped with speach synthesisers and microphones. I assume these would be very useful to the very low percentage of people who actually read braile. The most interesting product i cam across was the "thermo pen" which has a heated tip that when moved slowly across paper creates tactile lines words or symbols. Braile labelers, keyboards, watches, games and learning tools are also available.

Colour Identifier

This device detects about 100 colours and distinguishes sources, intensities and natural from artifical light. It speaks clearly at 3 volumes and has an earphone jack. This is an extremely useful product and would perhaps negate the use of the 'c' sytem mentioned earlier. However it si an extrememly pricey object and requires that it be carried around. I still believe that something like this, although i does make life easier for the blind, is still not tackling the problem of inclusivity. the general environment is not being changed to accomodate these people, the environment and society is ignoring the problem by presuming that all blind people want and need these. This is something that i need to think about when creating my own solution to the problem, do not exclude them more by givng them products that help them in our enviornment, but change the environment to suit their needs.

New York, New York

The New Torker magazine is something that i have been aware of for many years, have heard about the covers, but have never really looked at then. It was by chance that i can across an array of their work as i was surfing the web. At first i was not particularly drawn to the images as many of them do not display overy colours or images, nbut as i looked closer i found that the bigger picture is obvious once a few minutes is spent glancing over them. I particularly liked these three and i believe them to be the most venerated.

For this cover Art Spiegelman created silhouettes inspired by Ad Reinhrdt's black on black paintings, so that the north tower of the twin tower's antenna breaks the 'w' of the magazines logo. The magazine which was published september 24, 2001, it would appear was trying to illustrate the atomosphere of emptiness and illusion of a ghost image, that is reinforced by the varnish that distinguishes the image from the black background. It is a image i think that represents the confusion and darkness that filled New York at that time. A powerful cover that attempts to reach beyond the obvious.

This 2001 cover features a map of 'New Yorkistan' where the city is divided into middle eastern names. Again it is a powerful cover that aims to make the reader think rather than portraying the obvious with perhaps more impactful eye catching imagery. It is sophisticated despite its simplicity which echoes its target market and the issues its illustrating. It is an interesting imitation of the 1976 cover below.

The cover "View of the World from 9th Avenue" is perhaps dated now, and with reprouctions and imitations, the idea has perhaps lost some of its profoundness. Looking at it from the 1970's perspective however it would have been more befitting. It represents manhattans telescoped perception of the country beyond the hudson river, it is supposed to show the limited mental geography of Manhattanites. This could perhaps be put to a new concept of "Americas world view from America", which may highlight Americans ignorance over world geography.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Project Proposal

My proposal is to design a way to aid visually impaired, or blind people round the food options at the supermarket. Currently i am not sure which products i will focus on. To decide this i will need to conduct more research into my target markets wants and needs. There is also the option of a guide around actual supermarkets that will tell you what section your in - this i think would be especially suitable as supermarkets are forever moving their layout around.

Before i refine my proposal i need to answer the following questions:
• Would visually impaired people find a system to help the around a supermarket helpful?
• Who do i class as visually impaired?
• Would the visually impaired find a system to help them distinguish between food products helpful?
• Which food products?
• Different flavours? intensity of flavours? number it feeds? cooking instructions?
• How do they cope at the moment?
• Would this make them feel more excluded?

initial research findings

My initial research is leading me in the direction of inclusive design for the 'gray market', specifically those with eyesight problems. I think this is an area where i can possibly make a difference to the awareness of the public and aid those currently excluded.

I have been especially influenced by the work by the students contributed over the past years in the Royal College of Art Helen Hamlyn Research Associates Programme. Two students over the past years have created work that i think have made significant developments in the increasing problem of inclusivity in design. Primarily Natasha Frensch created a typeface to aid those with dyslexia to read more proficiently, this strikes right at the heart of the problem, combatting the parts of typography that people with dyslexia have problems with, for example, b and d, m and n, p and q. She came up with a solution that she tested and that was successful. Gero Grundman, attempted to tackle the problem of deteriorating sight in older people - similar to the avenue that i intend to take - by encouraging them to get checked out as soon as problems begin to arise. He wanted to tackle the problem at the beginning where people are most likely to be in denial, persuasion was an instant tool. Although i do not think some of his ideas would be successful or persuasive enough, it was interesting to see how he approached the problem of trying to advertise to people who may not be able to see the advertisements properly. By using bold colours, large type, and recognisable features (number plate) that were themselves integrated into the campaign, even a sight-impaired person would have the chance of understanding the concept, however inadvertently. The tactile qualities of Japanese braile and the 'c' system clothing system have also influenced me to consider using a 'hands-on' approach.

After looking at my research i decided that my initial idea of creating advertising that would include those with sight problems, was in itself short sighted. Do we, as individuals, feel the need to be advertised to? Or is it just a way for the hundreds of companies, shops and brands to differentiate and prove themselves to us. I realised that a visually impaired person would not really be bothered about the latest Guinness advert, when they find it a struggle to put on colour coordinated clothes or recognise their families. It is the most simple adaptions that will give them the greatest pleasure and ease of life.

Monday, 5 November 2007

The colour of money

Currency has its own graphic language. Any new currency has to retain its authoritarian and credability whilst stil look contemporary. Money passes through many hands with great speed, and so it is essential that the design is as functional and accessable as possible "Fundamental to [a persons] independence is the ability to deal easily with money" (Currency Design for Visually Impaired People: European Blind union, 1995)

All Euro and UK banknotes are rectangular but ech denomination has a different colour and size, this seems an obvious neccessity when designing banknotes, however the USA have yet to adopt either!

Each euro note has the numeral over 2cm tall and intaglio printed so that they are descernible to the touch, at least when the banknotes are new. They are positioned at the top right of each note, with smaller numerals in the corners. The numerals in the bottom left corner are the boldest, set against a pale background to enhance contrast. they are followed by the word 'Euro' in capital letters and written in the latin alphabet, the word in the Greek alphabet is written below it fainter. All the notes have a tactile foil feature that differs in shape and position from the low-value to high-value notes.

The three dimensional nature of coins make them easier to differentiate than notes, the euro coins differentiate in terms of colour, size, weight, thickness and the edges are sometimes textured.

Euro notes and coins are inventive examples of inclusive design with non-invasive features that help visually impaired and sighted users alike. This idea needs to be translated more into US currency design where there is a greater use of notes than coins and less diferentiation between them, and also in some ways the British notes. Notes also get so worn that it is nearly impossible to know what you have in your hand.

A possible avenue that i could explore is that of redesigning the US dollar notes to make them more accessible to visually impaired people, however as i am not a US citizen this may prove a difficult task. I do not know enough about North American history or their patriotic values to create something both accessible and in keeping with USA thought.

The 'C' System

The 'C' System is a clothing swing tag for visually impaired people that identifies colour, size and price. It was designed and developed by Jade Aloof and Coley Porter Bell design agency. It won the 2002 Design Business Association (DBA) Design Challenge.

Aloof discovered initially that generallt visually impaired people still retained a colour memory, so they did not need to be described what a colour looked like and the emotions that they envoked, as was her initial idea. Instead a more useful tool was to be told what colour the clothes they were choosing were. As only 4% of visually impaired people read braile, the challenge became to design a tactile colour-coding system for use on clothing swing tickets.

A clear and memorable system was required, so Aloof edited the colour palet to 16 core colours, and gave each a shape. The shape would be presented as a raised keyline, and within each of the solid four shapes there would again be a raised keyline. Each shape os broken down into 4 increments representing more or less saturation - so an outer keyline square means blue. If the solid raised area inside is a full square it is a dark or midnight blue, if it is only a quarter it is a pale or baby blue. Clearer still, if the inside area is ribbed, it gives an indication that it is a patterened garment. She went on to add six dots to indicate small to extra large sizing, and later the more complex instructions of washing and pricing.

Following from this, Aloof countered the problem of not being able to identify the clothes once the tags had been taken off. She developed a soft-silk label with the information of colour sewn onto it.

The RNIB is currently trying to promote the scheme and get it implemented in clothes around Britain and Europe.

I think that this is a brilliant idea and cannot quite believe that the idea has not been implemented into the labels of clothing. It would be so much more helpful for the blind person to be able to go about the task of dressing themselves without the aid of someone else telling them whether they look good or not. This is an idea that i personally would like to address in my own brief. Changing something so small, but making a huge impact on the lives of other people. Currently im not sure what this would be.... so any ideas?

London Underground Map

Accessible public transport is essentail to general accessability. The underground map we all know is a celebrated piece of graphic design, but is it great graphic design according to everyone? Many visually impaired users are surprised to find that is is available in braile, audio, tactile and large print form. A black and white version in which the colour-coding of lines is replaced with a series of patterns, is available for colourblind users.
Tactile version:

The most inclusive available development is the Tube Access Guide. It is useful for a wheelchair user, someone pushing a pram, and a visually impaired person alike. It identifies which stations have elevators and gaps between trains and platforms, and the ease of interchange from one line to another. Although clear print guidelines state that print of no less than 12pt should be used, a compromise of 10.25pt had to be used for ease of handling. The large x-height of Johnston means that it is more legible than many serif fonts would be at equivilent sizes.

Over 3,000 posters will advertise the new map. Not a brilliant poster i dont think, and, well, will the people who are being advertised to be able to see these? I would have suggested a more audio medium.

Although this has highlighted the general inaccessability of the London Underground it means that now, steps are being taken to improve the system, with 100 stations becoming accessable by 2020.

Playboy - in Braile!!

This is possibly the most bizare idea that i have come across in my search for inclusive design. Really, Playboy for a blind person? It contains no images just the articles (although ive heard these are really quite good). Does this actually exist or is it just some cruel joke played on the people who may never be able to see a naked woman in all her glory. Who was it that decided to print Playboy in braille? How do you explain a naked woman to a pubescent, visually impaired teen?

Playboy in Braille makes you think. It's exciting but uncomfortable at the same time.

The Age Explorer

Siemens have made great progress in researching the needs of older customers. The instruments and techniques they have employed are varied and unusual, creating some interesting, yet highly insightful results. Of the most unusual, is the Age Explorer - an all-enveloping suit and helmet designed to give the wearer a vivid impression of the physical and sensory problems associated with ageing.

The suit has 6kg of weights sewn into its lining, stiffened limb joints, and tiny neddles in the gloves to simulate the pain of artritis. in the helmet, ear pads muffle sound and a yellowish visor restricts both the field of vision and its colour. All everyday tasks from shopping to driving, instantly becomes immeasurably harder.

Although i am not convinced by this age simulating suit i think that it definitly provides the able bodied designer with an insight as to some of the problems that affect the older person. I think that it is important to remember also that there are certain mental conditions that may make the grasp of certain products difficult. For the young, and quick witted, technologically knowlegable, learning the functions of a new product may not prove so confusing as to an older person.

Siemens has also examined how best to sell and market inclusive design. By analysing how customers respond to sales information in the showroom they noted that while they wanted to know about the ease-of-use features, older custmoers reacted negatively to product marketing that makes an issue of age or personal deficit.

By doing their homework Siemens are learning fast that older customers form a vital part of their future.

Ballot Cards - Inclusivity in Politics

For the visually impaired and the blind, secretly voting for their selected party was not secret, and therefore some, preferred not to vote. There were often fears that if they were being assisted by someone with opposing views, they could never be certain that they were voting for the correct party.

The Home Office approached Goodwin Product Design to develop a voing methodology that would include visually impaired people. Large type could not be used, as the text size on Uk ballot paper is prescribed by law. Therefore Goodwin produced a very simple device called a selector - a transparent plastic template with a series of windows marked by braile numbers, embosed numerals, black nummbers on a white background and raised finger tabs - which would aid both blind and partially sighted people. the template could be laid over a normal balloting slip and taken off after the mark had been made. He tested each on a focus group made up of a selection of people with a variey of different eye conditions. "You obviously have some prior knowledge of teh concept, or a visual picture, but a key issue is that total blindness is not that common. People with visual impairments have a range of vision problems such as tunnel vision, and these are difficult to simulate." (2004), David Goodwin realised that the products had to be tested on real people rather than just imagining what the person can see and gather. This kind of design allows a company to learn things that it wasn't aware of before.

See the Pakflatt Selector at:

Japanese Inclusivity

It is well known that Japanese digital companies do not embrace inclusivity in the design of their digial exports. Sony, for example, has largely ignored the message that the over 50's 'baby boomers' with their disposible income may not be able to use some of their products or in the very least find them difficult. Many of Sony's products with their "high-tech features" and "multi-functionality" (Sony Barrier-Free Charter) have become barriers to the old, visually impaired and handicaped. Manuals are often difficult to understand and hard to read, products have small buttons, with near illegible labels, generally they are designed for optimum aesthetic and sytle purposes, ones that will ensure a quick and successful sell to the general public. The reason, i believe, that these products do not fail in terms of sales is that there is no alternative. The old and handicaped just have to struggle on with what is provided.

There have however been products that have been developed which do cater for the visually impaired. The Muji wall-mounted CD player was designed without the reaslisation that it would be perfect for a less able consumer. the design intuitively suggests a wall-mounted fan that will propell a breeze of music into the room. With this idea in mind there is a simple cord that acts as an on/off switch, a volume knob on top of the casing, and the speaker built in. This simple design, as well as looking good, can be used by anybody - yound, old, visually impaired - with ease, and can enjoy usng without thought.

On the other hand. Japan appears to be very aware of the use and advantages of inclusivity in product design. On prepaid phonecards, shopping cards or bus tickets they tend to include distinctive notches in their sides to identify their functions. They have translated this simple, yet effective idea to supermarket products such as mix-ups between cartons and food wraps, and even between cans of drink - although the lack of space means that only a few characters can be displayed. They are used to differentiate between alcoholic products and soft drinks, and ususally say alcohol or the name of the brewery like "kirin".

This discovery for me has highlighted just how being visually impaired completely impeeds you from going about every day life and tasks. I cannot imagine what it would be like to not be able to differentiate between a can of Coca-Cola and a can of carling, it must be incredibly frustrating. Anything, therefore that aleviates this annoyance would be such an asset to the lives of these people. It is simple and cheap. It is something that i think Britian should embrace more.

On train stations also they provide braile on hand rails to give information to blind users. The fact that this information is conveyed using such a prominent and continuous place - there are handrails in all stations - means that the information is of course always found in the same place and therefore easy to find. The braile labels give u an arrow and say which ticket gate you are being taken to and other information like that. Handrails near exits tell you the name of the exit you are at.

The Japanese demonstrate that their society is more aware of visually impaired people, but that they do not translate this idea into the products they sell to other countries. If Britain was to make a stand and demand that they provided more inclusive products, and above all demonstrate this through not buying them, then they would be forced to use some of those excellet ideas they have in their electronic products.

BT big button phone

BT's big button telephone was deigned with visually inplaired people in mind. It has been an enormous success with those intended and surprisingly with normal sighted people. Designing practical, yet stylish products are a neccessity for the expanding 'gray' market that need to overcome diminishing sight and dexterity. BT is one business that has recognised the market potential of products who's inclusive design can be beneficial to other users and consumers. One of the most usefull areas of te design process that BT's design consultancy Alloy took advantage of was testing a working prototype with both impaired consumers and non-impaired users and adapted te product to better suit both their needs. It is lucky i think that BT was able to develop a design like this that is suitable and in fact beneficiary to all users, this of course is very rare, not all products, or design is as easily adaptable.

Encouraged by the sales, BT commissioned the first cordless big button phone - the Freeestyle 60. Again they used the assessment of disabled people, creating their own Special Needs Unit. "Freestyle 60 os the first cordless product to employ a keypad whose key size and pitch has been proven on corded phones to be the ergonoic optimum. The main key chatacters are white on a dark background for maximum contrast and legibility ... The handset's waisted curves were modified to emphasise the large keypad, and the contoured cross-section fits comfortably in hands of all sizes." (Evamy and Roberts, 2004). BT have brought inclusivity right into the design process and make sure that their designs are tried and tested before they are marketed. This i believe is one of the reasons that teh product was so successful.

Some companies will not strive to include testing on visually impaired and disabled people as they are more interested in the speed of production and getting their products out on the shop floor, therefore the majority of products, especially electronics do not provide easy access. There is an arguement that BT's product range is so large that it can afford to produce a variety of 'dedicated' and 'specialised' products. However Bt do not see it like this. they have gone further in their inclusive products than any other, more global brands, and are definitly reaping the rewards!

Evamy, Michael & Roberts, Lucienne. In Sight: a guide to design with low vision in mind, examining the notion of inclusive design, exploring teh subject within a commercial and social context. Rotovision 2004. P 62.