‘O’ as an ‘Octopus’

David B. Berman’s bright and articulate seven-year-old son had trouble reading and couldn’t fully understand that a circle was a symbol for the sound of “o” as an “octopus” or that a tall line was a symbol for the sound of “l” as a “leaf”, and that you could combine a letter to create a full word. As tutors and teachers tried helping him, nothing seemed to fully click with his son, so Berman took matters into his own hands. 

With a strong vision in mind, Berman designed a system of spiral-flip books that prompts letter-sounds with logo-like icons. With clear letterforms, adjustable rings, and distinct icons, I firmly believe that Berman designed something that is accessible for people with disabilities as well as families who simply want to teach their children or grandchildren how to read. As the author of Do Good Design, a book that encourages and yearns for designers to renounce typical advertising projects and instead use their talents and abilities to restore the planet, Berman hasn’t disappointed his son or the nation. Berman’s distinguished spiral-bound cards bring awareness to all of us and how we can make this world more inclusive and accessible for all people. With a strong and willful yes, this piece of design satisfies both the disabled as well as the ignorant. 

“When thinking about how to design for disabilities, we tend to dwell on the acute cases—people who are blind or deaf since birth, paralyzed veterans–but most disability is less extreme. In fact, most of us have experienced it ourselves. For example, we are all color-blind when looking at a black-and-white printout of a color document.” – David B. Berman

After clearly observing the reasons as to why Berman’s brilliant design has been sold to districts, special-ed teachers, parents, tutors, and so many others, he doesn’t try to fix the people who need it. Instead, he focuses his attention on how he can help people with learning differences and what that will mean for everyone else. 

What I appreciate about Berman’s design is how inclusive and aware he is with not just his son, but the surrounding community. Sometimes we get so caught up in the issue or problem, believing there even is one, that we forget to think about the reason as to why we made those assumptions in the first place. We have to ask ourselves, what are the barriers and how can we fix the societal problems that consume our minds? The issue isn’t the person, it’s the misconceptions and assumptions that people twist in their own minds; this is the real issue we must dis-able.

. Credit: David B. Berman from Design for Disabilities https://www.printmag.com/post/design-for-disabilities-creatives-speaking-access-respect

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