Yeah, I hadn't either. I came across an article back in early 2000s explaining synaesthesia. Boy was I surprised that not everyone experienced colors and textures and whatnot when they thought of letters. "You know, M is blue and shiny, K is red and rough…?" I got some strange looks when I started talking about it. Turns out, scientists have known about it for a really long time, but it fell out of common knowledge. (If you're curious and want to learn more, I recommend a book called Wednesday is Indigo Blue as a good technical starting place.)
Turns out that for synaesthetes (people who experience synaesthesia), it's very common to have more than one kind. I have grapheme → color + texture + location (+ personality but just for numbers, go figure). It means I perceive colors and textures with each letter. As do days of the week, and months of the year. And they all have a spacial location in my mind's eye. I hadn't met anyone else with synaesthesia until the spring of 2011.
Back in 2011, as a HOW Design speaker I was also asked to review portfolios. I know I looked at several people's work, but I can't remember any. Just Rebekah Paulovich, and her work involving her own form of synaesthesia. Rebekah is also a synaesthete; she sees sound. Technically, it's sound → color + shape synaesthesia, but she has several kinds. Her work still blows my mind!
Rebekah is an amazing artist (seriously if you didn't click on that link up there, do it now, I'll wait), and since 2011 I had sent her a few messages asking how that project was coming along. She sent a message letting me know she was also in Boston for this year's HOW. We crossed paths on the same day that I pitched my coaching to 3,000 designers from HOW's main stage. She literally found me in a hallway full of people — again, how serendipitous, as with all things HOW-related — and we left to grab a coffee and catch up.
On the way to coffee, Rebekah told me an incredibly inspiring story of her life during the past 7 years since I'd seen her. (Her story is seriously amazing, and will come later, I promise.) Oh, and with true HOW serendipitous magic, the total for our coffee was $4.26 — not only her birthday, but also the birthday of the guy who rang us up!
One of the delightful outcomes of the coffee meetup…?
Rebekah and I agreed to do a book together, a book showcasing our illustrated synaesthesia alphabets! Eeeee! It's hard to convey just how excited I am!
Here's a sneak peek at the very beginnings of my piece of this super cool project. Curious? Good!
Because both our alphabets are also spacial in nature, this has the potential to be a VERY different kind of book. Rebekah's alphabet appears in her mind's eye as a stepped series moving from upper left to lower right. Mine is all around me, as if I was standing inside a typewriter ball in an old Selectric typewriter. We'll see how well each translates to a 2-dimensional plane.
There's loads more teasing to come as our book unfolds — literally! Ha!
Thanks for reading! Good juju to you! =)