Braille: Tactile Typography – Nicki Startek



Nicki Startek

Graphic design is a visual form of communication whether it’s a magazine ad, an online news article or sports logo, we interact with it using our vision. But graphic design isn’t just for the seeing, that would be like saying music isn’t for the hearing impaired. In fact, it is integral to those that are visually impaired. Designers have responsibility for communicating to all kinds of audiences and that means the inclusion of such individuals. One method of communication, braille, is a system of raised dots that can read by using the tips of your fingers or be read visually and it is used by designers for accessible communication. It is an essential form of tactile typography. Unfortunately Graphic Design: A New History doesn’t cover much on any aspect of accessible design. Information on the use of braille would greatly the textbook and bring readers a broader new look on inclusivity within graphic design.

Tactile sticker design for Netflix Accessibility, incorporating braille in the logo.
Tactile sticker design for Netflix Accessibility, incorporating braille in the logo.

In a highly digital communicative age, we can’t expect designers to consider braille if they aren’t aware of the history, the need and the possibilities of it. Designers are fully capable of working with braille, as it has always been a working typography for seeing and unseeing individuals (Conefrey).

Braille was designed in the early 1800s and was amplified by Louis Braille, who was blinded at an early age. He enrolled at the National Institute for the Blind in Paris, where he spent several years working on the braille system (History of Braille). Today his system still stands and assists many visually impaired in accessing books, music scores, paperwork, and even public signage.

Washroom sign with graphic, text and braille.
Washroom sign with graphic, text, and braille.

Working with braille has always been important on a graphic design level. For instance, a bathroom sign, we tend to only spare it a glance. For the visually impaired, communicating designated spaces (in this case a possible gender specification) is important. Braille is also a major part of public safety, as it is providing essential information to those who are unable to see a written warning, safety notice or hazard.

The word "love" is written in braille, the dots are substituted for heart shaped bumps.
Deon Staffelbach. The word “love” is written in braille, the dots are substituted for heart-shaped bumps.

Braille has also been a place for great exploration. Touch, like vision, can be interpreted in so many different ways. Alike other typography, designers have worked with new patternings and alphabet derivatives to change the messages and meanings. In one case, designer Deon Staffelbach, wrote the word “love” in braille but the dots were instead raised hearts providing a second level of information to both sighted and visually impaired individuals (Fontyou).

With this information considered, it would be hopeful that in the near future tactile typographies, like braille, will be discussed within graphic design history texts.

Works Cited

Conefrey, Ann M.  “Inclusive Tactile Graphic Design.” Braille Dots. May 19, 2019.

Fontyou. “Braille and typography – past, present and future.” TNW. June 29, 2015.

“History of Braille.” Braille Works. 2020.


Graffiti Stickers – Nicki Startek



Nicki Startek

Downtown, the core of a city, they’re everywhere you go. Every lamppost,  mailbox, and dumpster. Graffiti stickers, also commonly referred to as slaps, are interesting unintentional pieces of graphic design stuck on just about anything.


There is great efficiency in having premade art that is readily adherable to almost any surface. Stickers became a turning point for the infamous vandals DJ NO and TESS, who were associated with the vandal group X-MEN. These vandals ran a rampant campaign through New York City in the early 1980s and are often credited with popularizing the use of stickers for tagging (“Stickers NYC”)Graffiti, being a mostly illegal practice, meant artists that only used slaps are not identified on public platforms. One outlier to this problem is well-known artist Shephard Fairey who became a face for the slaps scene with his Andre the Giant has a Posse campaign. To this day the movement’s iconic sticker that depicted a graphical rendition of celebrity Andre the Giant’s face accompanied by bold, red highlighted type reading “OBEY”(see fig.1) is a massive part of what sticker culture is today. The directness of the sticker offers the viewer to consider the details and meanings of their surroundings, making quite the powerful statement (Bertschmann). You can find this sticker in cities across the world, thirty years after the campaign hit the streets of Providence, Rhode Island.

Figure 1: Shepard Fairey 1989
Figure 1: Shepard Fairey 1989


Today there’s an oversaturation of random slaps, mostly anonymous, self-promos of social media or knock-off slaps of vintage favourites. Essentially anyone can make one and stick it wherever so long as they don’t get caught of course. They are a form of advertisement, considering it isn’t unlikely to find an actual business using stickers to grab second of your attention as you wait for the crosswalk signal. Common characteristics of slaps include typefaces that are bold or hand-drawn graffiti fonts like wildstyle (see fig.2)Type is then often accompanied by an illustration that might be hand-drawn or reproduced. Some stickers are printed in a large quantity while others are hand made using packaging labels or scrap sticker paper. Since there are no rules or structures of design it makes these stickers quite unique and collectable. People will go out of there way to collect from specific artists and brands and then trade with others. This collective craze is the reason an artist’s sticker might end up in a city thousands of miles away from their own. The next lamppost you pass just might have some value stuck to it.

Wildstyle. Anonymous artist.
Wildstyle. Anonymous artist.

Works Cited

Bertschmann, Maddie. “Obey: The Art of Phenomenology.” Stakeholders: Uncensored. November 26, 2014, Accessed February 11, 2020.

“Stickers NYC.” Beyond the Streets. March 13, 2019, Accessed February 9, 2020.