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A dyslexic designer invents a font that eases the reading

Dyslexia is a life-long condition that makes it extremely difficult to read, write and spell and affects 10% of the world population.  The causes of dyslexia are not known with certainty; genes and heredity and/or a dysfunctionning in the planum temporale, the area of the brain that plays a role in understanding language may cause it.

People are often diagnosed when their young and they benefit from different methods and approaches to improve their writing and reading skills. In 2008, a young graphic designer and graduate of the Utrecht Art Academy, Christian Boer, developed as a final thesis a font that makes it easier for dyslexic to read.

“When they’re reading, people with dyslexia often unconsciously switch, rotate and mirror letters in their minds,” says Boer, who is dyslexic himself. “Traditional typefaces make this worse, because they base some letter designs on others, inadvertently creating ‘twin letters’ for people with dyslexia.”

In the sake of aesthetics, traditional fonts do favur neatness and consistency, which makes letters look too similar for people with dyslexia. For instance, many typeface use the letter “n” upside down as a “u”, or mirror “q” and “d” respectively as a “b” and “p”.

When we know that dyslexia is a neurological disorder that causes a disconnect between language and visual processing making it difficult for the brain to process text, we understand how easy it is to confuse, turn around and jumble a letter like « u » or « q ».

To counteract this tendency, Christian Boer designed individual letters in a way that causes them to be more quickly recognized and told apart by dyslexics.

In the Dyslexie font, the letter’s “centre of gravity” have been lowered to prevent the reader’s mind from turning upsude down. The letters have been made more easily recognizable by enlarging their openings, differing height within the letter or by giving similar looking letters different heights. Some letters are slightly slanted to increase the difference between ‘twin’ letters.

Such innovation is very important because, although people with dyslexia can be very happy and have a successful career, the struggle with reading can lead to frustration and low self-esteem, especially during elementary school when pupils are evaluated on their “reading comprehension”.In 2013, a study led by the University of Amsterdam showed that more than three quarter of the children who took part to the study made fewer errors while reading when they got a text in the font Dyslexia.



Written by Margaux Calon

Margaux graduated in History of Innovation at Paris IV-La Sorbonne and defended a master research thesis on “Science popularisation in the press for children, 1830 – 1930”. She travelled around the world of science communication as an intern for a year before entering a MSC Science Communication at Imperial College London. She’s now a community manager and science communication officer at the CRI.

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