Listen and Record is the first Braille wallpaper I have encountered. A number of years ago, I curated a show on children’s wallpaper and wanted to include some designs for visually impaired children. Although I understand that a paper of this kind would appeal to a small market, I was still surprised to learn that no such wallpaper existed. I thought a designer could get very creative by mixing illustrations and Braille to create a compelling textural pattern among the images that would result in a stimulating design for both visually impaired and sighted individuals.

Listen and Record was created by Ilias Fotopoulos, an artist and designer living in Sydney, Australia, who studied textile and fashion design at the University of Technology, Sydney. Fotopoulos became frustrated when he could not find textiles engineered to suit his design needs and began to experiment by exploiting existing techniques such as heat pressure, boiling, stripping, and clamping. These techniques became the source for his first collection of textiles and wallpapers, produced in late 2003.

This paper is from the designer’s second collection, introduced in Tokyo in 2007. While it appears to be simply a textural composition of flocked red polka dots, the design of Listen and Record, literally, tells the story—in Braille—of how this paper was created. Fotopoulos recorded his voice every day over the course of a year. At the beginning of the second year, he listened to the tape dated a year before, took a ten minute break, and then recorded his current thoughts over the original.

The use of typography or text as a design element in wallpaper goes back to the early 20th century. Text appeared earlier on children’s papers, but was included to facilitate learning and was not intended as a decorative element. While the text in Listen and Record is illegible to most, it nevertheless creates a decorative pattern visible to many. The red flocking on the white ground carries a lot of punch and creates a satisfying textural arrangement.

January 4 is National Braille Day.

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