Visually recreate the embarrassing and frustrating experience of interacting with a stranger through a distinct language barrier.
An intimately sized book with transparencies acting as the literal interpretation of the obstacles of having a broken, multi-lingual conversation.
Length of project
2 months
the process
The language barrier is one of the most jarring factors of a travel or study abroad experience. When asked to create a visualization of an experience we've had, I decided to focus on the difficulty of a language barrier in a romantic situation where both people are want to learn about each other but neither can form the right sentences.
I wrote and crafted a book the size of a quarter sheet of A4 paper, perfect bound. Through the use of off white paper and transparencies, I tried to create an experience in which the reader blocks elements of conversations, searches for translations, and reads internal dialogue, just as I had experienced at the time. The cover is a harder stock, slightly textured paper, covered with a transparent wrap-around.
I began by brainstorming ideas for angles and concepts, and creating a number of ideas ranging from aural experiences to posters to a video game to a book. ​​​​​
Initial Experiments  
Eventually, I decided that an an intimately sized, interactive book would most effectively translate my experience to the reader.
I wanted to employ the idea of hiding and revealing what was truly said in the conversation versus what I wish I had the skills to say, so my first book draft dealt with interaction through cut outs.
Cut-out Experiments  
After feedback, I decided to go with the idea of cross-outs on transparencies.
I wrote out running dialogue from both people, crossing out the parts I wasn't able to say or I didn't understand, and paired each statement with footnote translations and inner thoughts.
More Experiments and Book Flow  
Those who interacted with my book were confused by the current experience of flipping the transparency to hide text after already seeing it.

What I wanted was to recreate the frustration of not knowing what is being said. Testing the current layout showed me that the way to do that is to expose the reader to those obstacles right away. To reach that, I switched the experience from reading and then covering up the conversation to the other way around, forcing the reader to see the cross outs right away and lift the transparency in order to reveal the words below. 
I also cut down the amount of inner dialogue and worked on grid and layout to create more focus and clarity. In order to not stick to a similar format on each page, I made a few outlier spreads. 
I continued working with hierarchy and clarity of voice in the last few drafts after obvious confusion from readers. Additionally, I changed the block outs to be cross outs to reduce confusion over their meaning. 
Eventually, I arrived at my final product.
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