Last week, the tactile design workshop participants had the opportunity to share their work with the team of other students and facilitators at Archeworks. We asked our sighted audience to use blindfolds to experience the illustrations. This is one of the experiential research methods we used during the tactile design workshop before beginning our design process. In a previous post I shared some observations from Megan and Will about their experience with the tactile design workshop. Below we continue with reflections submitted by Grant Haugen and Cleo Ngiam.
Not being trained as an artist or architect, I came into this workshop fully fascinated with the possibilities of what I could learn going forward. At our first session, we were all blind-folded and had to separate a dozen samples of sandpaper, placing them in degrees of roughness from least-rough to most-rough. I quickly had to rely on my tactile senses to decipher the minute differences required to put them in order. Although I love touching interesting and/or soft textures, I had never really thought too much about relying exclusively on my other senses. This was compounded with a reading that Will mentions (see previous post, below), in which we learn that it’s only until recently that our society has become so vision-centric. A few days after this reading, I was driving through the suburbs to go to Wisconsin. Although I loathe suburban areas for their car-dependency, I had never once thought about how difficult it would be for a visually impaired person to get around. There aren’t too many sidewalks or people on the street willing to help the person if they are in a situation in which they need it, nor is there a stellar public transportation network making it easy for them to get around.
On our last day of the workshop, we had a focus group come in to have them feel our final projects and obtain feedback. I was nervous as to how much detail I should include on what I wanted to present as I was trying to illustrate what scent feels like. Not only did I have items to touch, I also included three very different and strong scents. I had such a thrill watching the focus group participants interact with my piece and have fun. I was told that it was multi-sensory, which made it exciting and accessible for all of the participants, which underlies Richard’s comment on never having too much detail on something.
One great point that was brought up was that most art museums are quite boring for visually impaired people as they are unable to always make out what they should be looking at, and at most museums, you’re not allowed to touch the artwork. We were told that children’s museums are quite fun as they’re very interactive and focus much on touch.
Although this workshop lasted a mere six weeks, it truly changes the way I use all my other senses than vision. I wear glasses, and since I have a hard time seeing without wearing them, I tend to take them off only when I’m sleeping or in the shower. Since the workshop, I’ve been taking off my glasses while in yoga, forcing me to rely much more on listening to my body and what the instructor is saying. I’m not busy focusing on how other yogis are doing their position, or watching the teacher to see the ‘perfect’ form of whichever particular pose we are working on. I feel that the intention I bring with me is much deeper and I’m able to understand my body much more.
The way I perceive the built environment and spatial design of the city are changed going forward. There are so many things that can be done to enhance the quality of life in cities for all types of residents. I’ve been intrigued on the use of sound and hope to learn more on implementing public sound installations as I move forward in my urban design and planning work.
This workshop was instrumental in expanding my capacity to make great cities!
How do you make your audience feel home?
How do you transfer an emotion to a graphic?
How does a tactile graphic add to the emotional and visual connection to an audio?
The answer is: I don’t know.
Throughout the whole workshop, we kept throwing around questions, contemplated on them and even tried to find ways to empathize.
But how do you let go of a sense that’s inherent to your perception of life?
The answer is: I don’t know.
It seemed that as we explored the different ways to relate stories and recipes to the viewer, it triggered others to share their own stories and recipes as well.
That was what captivated me the most. It seems that regardless of your ability or disability, food traditions are something that we have all inherited and continue with our own tweaks and personal touches. We all know how it feels like when you’re watching a close one cook for you. We can relate to steam fogging up the moisture of your face when a plate of good food is placed in front of you. We understand that the weight of the food is often disproportionate to the weight of our stomachs after consuming large amounts of food in a short amount of time.
So perhaps it wasn’t just about displaying the food traditions of someone else, but how we carry out our traditions to other people and establish our own as well. The tool we create is not just a tactile graphic, but an heirloom that encapsulates our memories, our superstitions, and our cooking stains when passing on that food tradition.