• Paul Anthony Jones

Braille Neue

(n.) a typeface invented to represent Braille as well as Roman characters

By far the most popular tweet on HH this week concerned Japanese designer Kosuke Takahashi’s new typeface Braille Neue, which mixes the layout of the dots in the Braille alphabet with the uppercase letters of the Roman alphabet:

Takahashi has described the font as providing “Braille for everyone”; it is, as many of you have commented over on Twitter, an extraordinarily simple yet brilliantly ingenious idea.

The original Braille alphabet was the work of its French inventor Louis Braille, who had been left completely blind after a freak accident in his father’s workshop when he was just 3 years old. While attending a dedicated school for the blind in Paris in 1821, Braille was introduced to the work of inventor Charles Barbier, who had developed a touch alphabet—intended to be used by soldiers in the Napoleonic Army—that allowed messages to be read and written in complete silence and darkness.

Barbier’s system was similar to modern Braille, in that different patterns of raised dots corresponded to different letters, phonemes and numbers, and could be “read” using the fingers. Barbier, however, used a potentially confusing six-by-six grid of dots for his alphabet, and as it proved too unwieldy to be of any real use it was never adopted by the French army. Braille, however, was inspired by his work, and over the months and years that followed developed a more streamlined tactile writing system that replaced the letters of the alphabet with raised dots in a smaller two-by-three matrix.

Braille’s system was nowhere near as successful in his lifetime as it is today alas, but the fact that the Braille alphabet has only been slightly modified since he first developed it in the early nineteenth century is proof of its success and its inventor’s ingenuity.

Speaking of which, you can find out more about Kosuke Takahashi’s work and his Braille Neue alphabet over on his website, here.

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