Braille Neue: A New Version of Braille That Can Be Simultaneously Read by the Sighted and the Blind

Pho­to via Kosuke Taka­hashi

To those of us who’ve nev­er had rea­son to learn it, the Braille alpha­bet can have an appeal­ing­ly retro-futur­is­tic look, not least because Braille sig­nage in Amer­i­ca seems most often installed in pre-2000s pub­lic build­ings. But it must smack of the past to many of the visu­al­ly impaired as well, who these days have a host of ever high­er-tech read­ing devices avail­able to them (thanks to which, of course, they can read sites like this one). And though pub­lic sup­port for pro­duc­ing mate­ri­als in Braille exists, the edu­ca­tion­al pro­grams need­ed to spread Braille lit­er­a­cy in the first place have few­er cham­pi­ons. Braille itself, per­haps, needs an upgrade for the 21st cen­tu­ry.

Kosuke Taka­hashi may be just the graph­ic design­er to pro­vide that upgrade. He’s come up with Braille Neue, “a uni­ver­sal type­face that com­bines braille with exist­ing char­ac­ters. This type­face com­mu­ni­cates to both the sight­ed and blind peo­ple in the same space.” He has, in oth­er words, designed a read­able alpha­bet that allows for the over­lay­ing of Eng­lish with the cor­re­spond­ing raised Braille dots, keep­ing both leg­i­ble at a glance — or at a touch, as the case may be. Oth­er design­ers have tried their hand at the same project, but unlike Taka­hashi, none of their alpha­bets sup­port pho­net­ic Japan­ese char­ac­ters as well. “Our aim is to use this uni­ver­sal type­set for [the] Tokyo Olympics and Par­a­lympics 2020 to cre­ate a tru­ly uni­ver­sal space where any­one can access infor­ma­tion,” says Taka­hashi’s Braille Neue page.

Pho­to via Kosuke Taka­hashi

Based on the exist­ing Hel­veti­ca Neue font, Braille Neue — whose design­er, accord­ing to My Mod­ern Met, “is still exper­i­ment­ing with cost-effec­tive print­ing and is refin­ing the font pri­or to final release” — has the poten­tial to spread not just aware­ness but lit­er­a­cy of Braille, giv­en that it essen­tial­ly shows sight­ed non-Braille read­ers a key every time they read it. As any non-Japan­ese per­son who has lived in Taka­hashi’s native land knows, even if you start with no idea of how to read a char­ac­ter in an unknown writ­ing sys­tem, you’ll start to get a sense of it almost auto­mat­i­cal­ly if you see it often enough in con­text with your own. They’ll also know that if any coun­try can imple­ment retro­fu­tur­is­tic design in a way that fas­ci­nates the world, it’s Japan.

via Colos­sal/My Mod­ern Met

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Helen Keller Had Impec­ca­ble Hand­writ­ing: See a Col­lec­tion of Her Child­hood Let­ters

The Pra­do Muse­um Cre­ates the First Art Exhi­bi­tion for the Visu­al­ly Impaired, Using 3D Print­ing

Font Based on Sig­mund Freud’s Hand­writ­ing Com­ing Cour­tesy of Suc­cess­ful Kick­starter Cam­paign

How to Write Like an Archi­tect: Short Primers on Writ­ing with the Neat, Clean Lines of a Design­er

Jorge Luis Borges, After Going Blind, Draws a Self-Por­trait

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (4)
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  • Jwana says:

    Hel­lo, I am a visu­al­ly impaired. I know how to read braille, but I don’t know the new ver­sion of braille. So how can I learn the new braille ver­sion?

  • Lisa Conyne says:

    How do I get my hands on some of this mate­r­i­al to teach braille & low vision..Great way to teach dual read­ers!

  • neo says:

    hey thats pret­ty good i can use this to send secret mes­sages

  • A Concerned Typographer says:

    Braille Neue is not, as you say, “Based on the exist­ing Hel­veti­ca Neue font”. This has noth­ing to do with Hel­veti­ca Neue, or in fact, any exist­ing font, except for stan­dard braille. “Neue”, Ger­man for “new”, is a com­mon addi­tion to a font name that sig­ni­fies that some minor, but sig­nif­i­cant, improve­ments were made.

    One of the most wide­spread free neue fonts are Bebas Neue, a visu­al touch-up of the old­er, and now large­ly unused, Bebas. One of the most used com­mer­cial neues is Neue Frutiger.

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