LANGUAGES MATTER! A UNESCO poster competition

Competition Details

Decoding Braille

by Yoong Shenq Foo

What seems like sets of symbols is in fact a cryptogram consisting of series of Braille alphabets arranged in random and overlapping sequences. The general message is visually represented by punctuations that disperse as we read rightwards. The clustered section of the poster recalls the multiple and existing mother languages where the sparse end warns of their potential loss.

However, the message behind this poster is more than a visual representation. Viewers are encouraged to touch the punctuations embedded on the poster, eyes closed, thereafter using their sense of touch and imagination to compose a mental picture. Fact is the punctuations are Braille alphabets deliberately arranged in randomness and the poster’s composition arbitrary.

In doing so, viewers are attempting to make sense of the cryptogram in their own language and interpretation. Without one right answer, this opens up for diverse interpretations emphasizing on the importance of cultural diversity. As viewers debate and exchange their interpretations, the meaning of language is unfolded. In other words, it is language that helps us to convey our mental thoughts to others sensibly from speech or mime to symbols and vice versa.

Braille’s alphabetical system was chosen for this design over graphical illustrations for reasons. Like a disguise, the poster may look like a plain piece of paper from afar but a closer inspection would reveal the punctuations. Clueless about the cryptogram’s significance, the search for an answer gets more frantic especially to the visually impaired who are literate in the Braille alphabet. This is to highlight the urge in safeguarding the disappearing mother languages.

Mother languages differentiate one culture from the other in many societies and for some, brought about closure as well as cultural identity. Thus the notions of viewers touching and feeling the poster not only signifies the notion of bringing closure to the various cultures but also gives a different way of placard appreciation.