When it comes to translating books with pictures, braille alone won’t do the job. One way around this is by replacing images with 3D shapes readers can feel. Comic book artist Ilan Manouach took this concept one step further by creating his own tactile language to convey feelings as well as objects, Fast Co.Design reports.

Manouach’s new medium, dubbed Shapereader, uses tactile glyphs called "tactigrams" designed to feel reminiscent of whatever it is they represent. Anxiety is written out as block of jagged zig-zags, and “to observe” is a pattern of star shapes spread out against a blank background. The dialogue is printed in standard braille, and readers can refer to a braille index in the book to determine the meanings of each pattern.

Manouach was inspired to create a graphic novel for the blind after spending time alone in the northernmost region of Finland, called Lapland. He told Fast Co.Design, "My whole visual landscape [there] consisted of layers of dense snow imprinted by different animal traces, leftovers of a frenetic night activity.” His first Shapereader piece Arctic Circle reflects this visceral experience. “Walrus” (a chunky pattern of broken-up boxes), “arctic moss” (flowy fan shapes) and “snow goggles” (thin, vertical lines) are just a few of the more than 200 tactigrams Manouach created specifically for the story.

Shapereader isn’t yet available to a wide audience—the only way to check out Arctic Circle for now will be to see it on display at Seattle’s Washington University in September. But Manouach is working hard to spread word of his invention. Throughout the next year he plans to get people excited about Shapereader through a series of workshops, conferences, and exhibitions.

[h/t Fast Co.Design]

All images courtesy of Ilan Manouach.

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