A universal typeface for a more inclusive society
Japanese designer and inventor Kosuke Takahashi created Braille Neue for both the visually impaired and sighted, by combining touchable braille with visible letters
We need to rethink how we communicate. We might know that braille exists, but many of us don’t know what it says. That’s why Kosuke Takahashi invented Braille Neue – a typeface can be understood by both the sighted and visually impaired.
Statistics from the World Health Organisation tell is that over 2.2 billion people globally are blind or visually impaired, and that number is expected to increase three times more by 2050. In spite of this, we rarely see braille implemented in public spaces – making gathering information and getting from A to B difficult for those who read by touch.
Braille Neue addresses these issues. The typeface combines braille with existing characters so it can be read and understood by both the blind and sighted, creating inclusivity in the environment.
The use of Braille Neue in public spaces not only creates mutual understanding but also forms interaction between the sighted and the blind.
“When I tested this typeface at some events, I saw conversations between visually impaired and sighted people, triggered by this typeface. I believe that by using this common tool we will create encounters that have never happened before,” says Braille Neue designer, Kosuke Takahashi.
”When I visited a welfare facility, a visually impaired person told me, ‘If you can read braille, you can read even in the dark!’.”
After the young communications designer started investigating braille, he realised how deep that world was. “In the Japanese braille system, for example, a cell made up of six dots in two vertical rows represents one Japanese kana character, with three dots used for vowels and the rest consonants
. It’s rather difficult!”
Alongside Braille Neue Standard, which is used with the Latin alphabet, Kosuke also developed Braille Neue Outline to be used with Japanese characters – making the typesets accessible for both Japanese and English readers. Braille Neue can be implemented into existing infrastructures by adjusting the kerning of the typeface and overwriting original signage, making it easy and affordable for businesses and venues to add. While this is not the first font to combine braille with visible latin letters, Braille Neue is the first typeface that also incorporates Japanese characters.
Kosuke also often implements large braille signage in public spaces. Although this is not useful for visually impaired people, it is significant for helping sighted people to understand blind culture and get acquainted with the braille code, highlighting the educational aspects of the typesets. “We try to protect the regulation of the size and location of the Braille so that it can be shared by both the sighted and the visually impaired, but we may also use it with a large sign to educate sighted people about braille,” he says.
He chose blue for the colour, not just because it is his favourite colour, but because it is a stable colour even for people with colour-blindness.
Despite braille being invented in 1824, it’s the Braille Neue typesets that have integrated the experiences of the visually impaired and the sighted. The typefaces have already been implemented in several public facilities including Shibuya City Office in Tokyo and Rikuzentakata City Office, as well as added to the Japan offices of Panasonic and Dentsu.
Currently, the designer is working on several collective projects including the design of picture books which the sighted and the visually impaired can enjoy together and haptic fashion design. The more implementation of Braille Neue globally, the more inclusive our world can be.
What’s so good about this?
The more implementation of Braille Neue globally, the more inclusive our world can be. Braille Neue has also launched an open community for developing a multilingual version. It’s still a work-in-progress but already serves the mission of creating a world where Braille Neue is the new standard.
Meet the writer
Emma Jones is the photo editor and digital marketing lead for Ethos Magazine. She is also the digital marketing and design executive for publishing agency, Wordscape – which works with businesses across the social and circular economy to tell their stories and increase their impact. Emma has also recently achieved a Masters degree in Marketing from the University of Liverpool. Follow @ethos_mag.