A few months ago I met accessibility and sensory design consultant, Alastair Somerville, who was in town to demonstrate using simple and cheap visualisation tools such as the 3Doodler pen. Over coffee we chatted about 3D printing, data manifestation and some of the tools and techniques we’ve each developed. Alastair showed me a material he has been using in wayfinding for people with visual impairments: Zy.chem swell paper, a specially treated material where the black ink ‘swells’ up to create a textured surface. Alastair had been using it to make simple tactile maps and for braille. We both then became excited about the possibilities of using the Zy.chem paper with bookleteer to create simple and low-cost braille and textured publications.
Very soon afterwards Alastair experimented with a wayfunding guide for a project he was working on for the University of Sussex’s new library, The Keep. He sent me a copy printed on the Zy.chem paper which confirmed for me that this was a material with hugely exciting creative potential. I then asked Alastair if he would consider making something special for the Periodical so we could demonstrate this to others. The result is this beautiful guide to Dal Riata, an ancient Scottish kingdom in Kilmartin Glen, Argyll which has some of the most extensive neolithic earthworks and structures in the UK.
Alastair’s book uses the zy.chem paper to impart the texture of some of the neolithic stone features of Dal Riata as well as some maps of significant sites. In addition to the tactile paper, one sheet is also printed on tracing paper, overlaying the bigger map of Scotland and Northern Ireland onto a tactile map of the kingdom of Dal Riata itself, and then providing a ‘mist’ overlaying a section about the disappearance of the kingdom during the Viking raids of the early Middle Ages. At once informative and poetic, it holds its own sense of magic and mystery within its very textures.
Alastair has posted a Vine video:
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