Shapereader Project Uses Forms and Patterns for Storytelling

Shapereader is an experimental approach in graphic storytelling, the first of its kind. Created by Ilan Manouach, it is a repertoire of forms and patterns that constitute an attempt to translate words and meanings into tactile formations. It was designed from scratch with the goal to transpose works of graphic literature to a blind and visually impaired readership, Shapereader advocates for new publishing grounds and challenges visual predominance of graphic storytelling. While it is mainly addressed to people with visual disabilities it can also be experienced by the acquainted regular user. Through circumvention of the visual sensorimotor stimuli, it activates the reader’s repressed tactile-sensory realm and helps foster a new diegetic experience.

Shapereader Ilan Manouach

The first narrative work to use the Shapereader repertoire is Arctic Circle, a 57-page original graphic novel relating the story of two climatologists digging in the North Pole searching for patterns of climatic change inscribed on ice columns.

Six hand-held, laser-engraved communication boards allow the reader to get acquainted with the Shapereader repertoire. They carry the index for 210 different shapes, providing the tactile equivalents for the specific features of the story. They are divided into groups according to their semantic content and function: characterspropssettingsactionsaffections as well as graphic and textual devices forming the well-known toolbox of graphic storytelling craft.

Updates on the project are available from