Thursday, April 1, 2010

Synesthesia-My Experimental Typeface

My class is having an experimental type show on April 8th which is going to be incredible. Here's the blurb and all of the characters I made for the show.

My x-type is based off my observations of my wife’s recent discovery of her synesthesia. For my typeface I used her descriptions of each letter form and illustrated them the way I perceive them. Here’s a brief description of the condition.

Synesthesia—From the words syn, “together,” aisthesis, “sensation”—is a neurologically-based condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. People who report such experiences are known as synesthetes. In my wife’s case she has two different forms of synesthesia.

In one of the most common forms of synesthesia, grapheme, color synesthesia, individual letters of the alphabet and numbers (collectively referred to as graphemes), are “shaded” or “tinged” with a color. While different individuals usually do not report the same colors for all letters and numbers, studies with large numbers of synesthetes find some commonalities across letters (e.g., A is likely to be red).

Ordinal-linguistic personification (or personification for short) is a form of synesthesia in which ordered sequences, such as ordinal numbers, days, months and letters are associated with personalities and genders.

There you have it! A very interesting yet strange condition. It was a lot of fun drawing these descriptions and I hope you enjoy viewing these little characters as much as enjoyed making them. I especially enjoyed the unknowns. Which one are you?!?


ChainedCarrie said...

Creating these images based on your wife's descriptions of her ordinal linguistic personification of letters was a really creative idea. I especially found this blog interesting because I've always known that I have ordinal linguistic personification of numbers (which was stronger when I was a kid than it is now), and I never thought I had this with letters until I saw this post. Seeing the cartoon images of the letters made me realize that when I was younger, I must have also had ordinal linguistic personification of letters because I found myself disagreeing with many of your wife's perceptions of the letters. For example, you said your wife thinks of S as being a kind of wicked man, but I remember S as being a very nice and helpful woman. Thanks for triggering my memories of synesthetic experiences I had when I was younger.

Jesse Jaren said...

To ChainedCarrie: Since I've made these little characters many people have approached me telling me that they have the same, or close to the same, condition. For some, it's with letters and/or numbers, some have close to the same descriptions, and others descriptions are completely different. It's so strange! I wish I had it. It's very fascinating to me. I just see plain ol' letters, which are amazing in themselves.

Ruirdhani said...

I am so tickled when i read this article.
I don't like even numbers, because they are just blunt and weak. the odd numbers are strong and independent one, however number 8 is a sweet number.
and 21 is the strongest number, bright and stand on!
while 7 is really an elegant number.
I also find your pictures really interesting! to know someone associates letters with personalities. Tho, i have my own association. i am not sure whether it's the letter or the phoneme, the way it's pronounced that i link with the personalities. for example i see R as a prominent personality, who has the it factor. and i don't really like the P, it's just so weak and doesnt have any responsibility. But i can't see the letters as colors. anyway your article is amazing! Thank you :)

Forever Lost in Books said...

I came across the word Synesthesia a while ago, but didn't think much of it. My initial response to it was '' Pfff, who cares, everyone does that''. But, I stumbled upon it again and decided to read more about it.

And it seemed that not every saw the way I see the world. I, too, have OLP, with grapheme color synesthesia, but also number form (also known as spatial sequence). But, my grapheme color synesthesia is really weak; only a few numbers and letters have colors, and sometimes I won't notice them. But, to me, a lot of numbers have personalities, but their personalities are very simple; one will be good, another one will be super bad, others will be 'neutral', etc.

That can sometimes affect the way I see numbers, and that's why I sometimes try to tune it out, because when I'm doing an exam, and the number is 7, a part of me knows thinks it's not the right answer when it actually is, because 7 is 'bad'.

My spatial sequence synesthesia, though, is pretty strong, and I think that is why remembering numbers and days and words and such is so easy to me. For example, I'll memorize some pi decimals or the periodic table for fun.

I also have a friend that experiences sound to color synesthesia, grapheme synestesia, spatial sequence synesthesia and OLP too. We like to talk about it, thinking of non-synesthetes see the world; it is so hard to imagine that.

- A young synesthete with a lot of questions :D

allie jenelle said...

This is so cool. I can only imagine all these guys stuck in a room together. Poor H. That made me laugh. Please do some more artwork based on this fascinating condition. I would love to have the experience of synesthesia for a day!

Jesse Jaren said...

Thanks all for your comments!.....I need to get better about blogging. I would love to do another project on synesthesia! I'm just not sure what the project would look like. I would also love to experience synesthesia for a day. I sometimes forget that my wife experiences life every day like this. If you have any suggestions on a project, let me know, and maybe I'll make it my next project!

Shefali Menezes said...

Its the same with me. I too have OLS....and i remember A and B being the couple madly in love...with A being the strong silent type and B being a fat...strict but kindhearted woman too.
I also always think of 1 as a male and 7 as the other male in the numbers of 1-10 . 1 and 7 each have their own wives but since 7 is way more handome...all thr women go after him. 1 is short in height too. While 7 is tall and dark. For :p
4 is just a small boy wearing a gat upside down...he is green in color. 3 is his matron or caretaker. Reminds me....of seagreen. And so on..

chocolatte-owl said...

This is was a very interesting and entertaining read! The drawings are absolutely adorable!!! I just discovered your blog and I love it already. So adorable~

Fiona said...

I wonder if you'd let me draw my own version of the letters and numbers. I wouldn't want to copy your idea, but I'd like to also draw how I see them.

Jesse Jaren said...

Fiona, I would love to see your versions of these letters and numbers. When your done, I would love it if you could send me a link so that I can see them! :)

trusha navalkar said...

Z,M,B,A personalities totally match with yours! Though A for me always ranges from dark blue to grey. The B personality was spot on! I was trying to put into words what I thought of B. B is mostly yellow, but can travel the length of lighter hot colours depending upon situation, mood, environment etc. M is a letter whose colour I'm a little confused about because of such a dynamic personality, but for time being it's maroon for me. Z again doesn't remain consistent in it's colour but always remains within the hot colours range.
I just took a few tests and realised I definitely have grapheme-colour and OLP type synaesthesia and am on the lookout for auditory-tactile, misophonia and mirror-touch synaesthesia. Thank god no olfactory interference for me! I wonder how those guys live...o.O

Autumn Brackeen said...

This whole blog makes me so happy! I thought everyone did this until about 2 years ago (at 35!) I found myself closing my eyes and picturing my version of the next letter, we only matched on about 10, but it made me lol when we did. Like seeing an old friend through a strangers eyes and brain! Thank you for this and for all the comments, I'm so interested in this "condition" I thought was ordinary for my first 3 decades of life :)

Reva Fowler said...

This is so cool. I can totally relate to Autumn. Even though I'm only twelve, I can't believe I didn't notice that other people don't see numbers as having their own personalities for over a decade! I first heard the term synesthesia in a book i was reading, but at first I didnt really connect the dots, since the girl in the story has graphme-color synesthesia, not OLP. Thank you so much for starting this blog.

Leah C said...

I remember in like 3-5th grade when I had to learn multiplication. I would associate numbers with personalities like these. I would use this to help with math. I would make multiplication or addition like couples. For example: 7( cute guy)+5(girly girl)= 12(ok match). 4(short girl)X 8(tall guy)= 32(didnt work out).

FeatherAsh said...

I have a reduced version of this, I think. Some words, letters and numbers make me think of certain colors or emotions, but not all, so not full synaethesia, I guess. G is kinda delicate, and light blue, Y is bright yellow, and 5 is green.

Glenn Westmore said...

Great project! Did you know that Pseudo-synesthesia is maybe also possible? There is a study done by a group of psychologists at the University of Amsterdam that demonstrated the possibility of training grapheme-color synesthesia. As a mathematician, I am interested in the way in which individuals envision number for arithmetic processing. As visual thinkers tend to be more creative in their thinking, I’m looking at methods of visually representing different types of mathematical equations. I started by using basic arithmetic to determine a relationship between colours and numbers, and assigned each of the numbers 1-24 a colour. It was exciting for me to see some of these colourful pictures: I would be grateful to hear what someone with grapheme-color synesthesia thinks about it.