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MAKING SENSE OF A TO Z L G Attala


MAKING SENSE OF A TO Z A Sy n a e s t h e s i a A l p h a b e t

L G At t a l a


Introduction It may be embarrassing to admit now, but as a young child, I struggled with something that many of the other children seemed to grasp with little difficulty: learning to recite the alphabet. It wasn’t until years later that I was diagnosed with dyslexia, which was probably what was slowing me down as I tried to learn basic literacy skills, but I adopted an alternative learning technique of my own, without really realising it. I had a much easier time remembering the letters of the alphabet, or other things like people’s names, when I allowed my mind to freely associate them and their sounds with my other senses, such as sight. In other words, different sounds would cause me to visualise certain colours and forms, and I utilised these visualisations, which I now know as photisms, as a mnemonic device in order to memorise them. This strategy came naturally to me, and so I assumed it was how everyone else’s mind worked too, yet when one day I described the letter ‘K’ as “Sandpapery,” my Mother gave me a quizzical look. Eventually, however, I found out that experiencing these visual sensations, triggered by certain sounds, is in fact a condition known as synaesthesia, and, according to neuroscience researchers Dr Noam Sagiv and Dr Jamie Ward, it affects up to 5% of all people.


There are many types of synaesthesia, whereby the people affected perceive their surroundings differently from others: music notes may have colours, numbers may have personalities, and shapes may provoke a taste in their mouths. Essentially, any time one sense is activated by the stimulation of a different sense, that is the occurrence of synaesthesia. The type of synaesthesia that I experience is a polymodal synaesthesia: a combination of sound-to-colour synaesthesia and grapheme-colour synaesthesia, as I believe that both the sounds of letters and the letterforms themselves trigger my photisms. With further research, it became clear to me that this discovery that I had made: my method of using these colours and patterns that I associated with sounds and letters as a handy learning tool, has been found to be a highly beneficial technique for many people with this condition. It is almost impossible to establish an educational system directed at synesthetes, as the condition affects each individual differently, with a wide range of triggers and sensory associations. Some even have such an acute case of synaesthesia that they find the sensations overstimulating and confusing. Therefore, as Marc-Jacques Mächler suggests in his essay ‘synaesthesia and Learning,’ it is important for schools to teach awareness of synaesthesia and to help children in “arranging it, integrating it and thus learning to use the colors in a beneficial way.”


It is this insight into how my mind works that inspired this project. In this book, I have interpreted my photisms and produced graphical representations of the colours and patterns triggered neurologically by my synaesthesia. I have created a sensory alphabet, encompassing the photisms in the shapes of letterforms, combining my personal experience as a synesthete with my interest in graphic design. Accompanying each letter, you will find the title that I gave the design, and below it a short description consisting of keywords that I feel characterise the photism that occurs when I hear or see the letter. My intention is to provide encouragement for anyone who has been through a similar struggle to explore and utilise whatever mnemonic devices and memorisation tools that help them learn.


THE RED SHARP-EDGED KNIFE Red Jagged Edges


A SHINING LIGHT Bright Glow


FLOWING AND FRESH Fluid Liquid Droplets


WHOLEMEAL AND GRAINY

Brown Capsules


METALLIC SLICE Sharp Circles


MICROSCOPIC STRANDS

Explosion of Fuzz


Green Mosaic Squares


HUMID DUNES Smooth Yellow Ripples


FROSTY GRANULES Crystal Grains


MALLEABLE ALUMINIUM

Creased yet Smooth


ABRASIVE SURFACE Prickly Particles


SUSPENDED ABOVE TREETOPS Fluctuant Faded Polka Dots


PROTECTIVE CASING Transparent Waves


COMPUTERISED NETWORK SYSTEM

Joining of Dots


AMONGST THE CLOUDS Fluffy Irregular Blots


LUSH VIBRANT VEGETATION Green Vein Branches Spreading


GLEAMING BLUE SEASHELL Ribbed Blue Parcels


THE EXTRAVAGANT VEIL

Woven Pattern


VIOLENT RUNNING WATER

Meandering Purple Lines


Thermographic Colour Contrast


OUT OF FOCUS

Filtered Blur


GREY FOREIGN WORLD Tire Mark Indentation


THE STARS THROUGH WATER Sparkling circles


GLITCH IN THE STATIC

Noise-Filled Random Combination of Colours in Pixels


STAIN ON THE GLASS Smudges


CITRUS SODA PLUMAGE The Web of a Feather



Making Sense of A to Z