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Thanks for the memories  July 26, 2012

Life: a comic book for the blind

About The Author

CNET Editor

Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.

(Credit: Philipp Meyer)

A design student has created a graphic novel that tells a simple story through touch.

Although the invention of the Braille system means that the blind have access to the printed word, there is one printed medium that, based as it is in visual storytelling, is impossible to enjoy without seeing it: the comic book. At least, until Philipp Meyer, a design student at the University of Applied Sciences in Potsdam, Germany, involved.

His idea was twofold: create a story that is as graphically simplified as he can possibly make it; and realise it in such a way that is equally explorable to both the sighted and the blind. Thus Life was born: a simple tale told using only circles of varying textures to describe a single life cycle.

To start the process going, Meyer created a digital version of the layout in comic-book panels and sent it to friends to find out if they could ascertain what was happening on the pages. When they had no trouble connecting the panels to the title of the comic, Meyer, with some help from Danish reading assistance institute Nota, moved onto blind readers. Although his first reader, Michael, had no difficulty understanding the story, others did not, so Meyer went on to create further refinements — tweaking the textures of his circles to make them more identifiable as individuals.

The digital version of the book.
(Credit: Philipp Meyer)

Once circle, for example, is just a ring, while the other has the texture become less pronounced towards the centre, creating a softer sensation. The "child" is a mix of the two: one half just a circumference, and the other a gradual fade.

"This project was definitely the most challenging I ever did — yet the most rewarding as well," Meyer said on his web page. "I will never forget the day when Michael read the tactile comic for the first time, experiencing a medium that did not exist in this form before. On that day I realised that it is possible to tell a story — without ink, text or sound — that comes to life through imagination."

Although Meyer is careful to point out that his project is only an experiment, and although there may be some limitations involved in telling a story only through circles, Life has some definite possibilities for further exploration. We certainly hope that someone decides to find out what they are.

For more information on the project, you can read Meyer's essay about the process here (PDF).

(Credit: Philipp Meyer)



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