Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee
David Lyons lectures on Media Design at the University of Abertay in Dundee, Scotland and is a PhD researcher at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee. Before coming to Scotland, Lyons designed exhibits for and Charlie Brown and Peanuts and the Space Center Houston and taught graphic design at the University of Wisconsin Stout and The Art Institute of Pittsburgh. He studied graphics at the University of Wisconsin Madison, and printmaking at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Loyola University Chicago.
Double Blind Test Series
There’s none so blind as they that won’t see.
Braille is a communication tool in decline, in America by 80% since 1950, and in the UK to the extent that only 1% of blind people are now thought to read Braille.1, 2 There are a variety of causal factors, including the phasing out of Braille instruction due to the educational mainstreaming of blind children and the resistance to learning Braille by those who lose sight later in life.3
Braille is a writing system of raised dots that allows blind people to read and write tactilely. Each Braille character comprises a cell of six potentially raised dots, two dots across and three dots down. It is designed only to communicate the message and does not convey the tonality provided by visual fonts.
However, in his book Design Meets Disability, Graham Pullin, observes that: “Braille is interesting and beautiful, as abstract visual and tactile decoration, intriguing and indecipherable to the nonreader ” and continues; “…braille could be decorative for sighted people.”4
I assert that the increasing abandonment of Braille frees it from its restrictive constraints, opening it to exploration and experimentation, and that this may result in Braille becoming dynamic expression for the sighted, as well as the partially sighted and blind.
Printmaking is well suited for this exploration. Printmaking processes and techniques can result in prints aesthetically compelling to both senses of sight and touch. Established approaches, such as flocking, varnishes, puff-ink, embossing and die cut, combined with experiments in new techniques in laser cutting and 3D printing, create visually and texturally vibrant prints.
In this paper I will detail my systematic investigation of sensually expressive printmaking concentrating on the issues surrounding Braille as a printmaking design element paying particular attention to the approaches and techniques used not only in producing its visual style but to those techniques used to keep it integrally tactile.
1, Rachel Aviv, “Listening to Braille,” The New York Times, December 30, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/03/magazine/03Braille-t.html?pagewanted=all
2, Damon Rose, “Braille is spreading but who’s using it?” BBC News Magazine, February 13, 2012,