Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Instant Inspiration: Clovernook Tour

After spending an afternoon at Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired the fire is back in my belly! The design process is much more meaningful and passionate when you can really empathize with the people you are designing for.

This is a work station for zinc plate punching. Clovernook prints more than 40Million pages of braille a year for a number of clients including the Library of Congress. I was surprised to find that Terry, the machine operator, was able to use a standard keyboard to input commands despite having no vision. He only needed a braille display (black box next to the monitor) to receive information.

Zinc plate being flipped for second pressing on back. The lines of braille are offset so that both sides can be punched without destroying text on the other side.

These two friendly fellows who's name I didn't catch were proofreading text before being printed for the public. Clovernook regularly receives publication before release to transcribe into braille. These two seemed to be having a good time!

Braille can increase the size of a publication dramatically. The above is a copy of the same picket publication in braille.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Summer Studio: Explorations in Blindness

This Summer Studio is going to be a blast! I am finally working on a project that has meaning beyond cardboard boxes and perfume bottles.

My choice of tool was not easy. Having deliberated the options for weeks, I was pressed to find something that I felt truly needed designed, not just for the sake of design, but to have a real substantial impact on the life of the user. After all, isn't design about people? (I'm asking for a debate ;)

I am now currently working on a perceptual device for the blind, though not a power tool in the proper sense, it will fulfill my course requirements, and make my work rewarding.

I chose this project because of what I see as an underwhelming amount of real design in current products for people encountering disabilities. In particular, the symbolic white cane (used as a mobility tool by the visually impaired) is badly in need of rethinking. The current market is saturated by a hand full of models that , though functional and affordable, say nothing about the person holding it and look as if created by a mob of med students and engineers. Some of them have pseudo-ergonomic handles made from molded plastic. Even without a truly deep understanding of vision-impairment, I can see that there is much that can be improved with the status quo.

Check out my newly constructed DIY light blocking googles-

I plan to get into character this week, and really find out what its like to live without sight. I still have so much to learn.