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August 3, 2011 6:31 AM   Subscribe

"Reading printed text is so fluid and transparent for most people that it's hard to imagine it feeling any other way. Maybe that's why it took a dyslexic designer to create a typeface that optimizes the reading experience for people who suffer from that condition."

Dyslexie designer Christian Boer says "People with dyslexia reflect letters like in a mirror, rotate letters and mix them up. Moreover, most fonts have been designed from an aesthetic point of view, and the letters look very similar. But this makes that the text is hard to read by someone with dyslexia."
posted by rtha (62 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
Interestingly, I found the Dyslexie text incredibly difficult to read at my normal fast speed. Not sure what it is, but there's something in the design of these letters that just confuses the hell out of my brain.
posted by seanyboy at 6:41 AM on August 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


From the comments at the first link:
"It's an interesting article, but we should treat it with caution - the font appears to cost upwards of 450 euros. With that sort of profit motive, I'd question the veracity of his data. Is he an academic or a salesman?"
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:42 AM on August 3, 2011 [8 favorites]


I forgot to add that there are other fonts recommended for those with dyslexia.
posted by rtha at 6:44 AM on August 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm not a designer, so I've never bought a font in my life. Is that a lot for new/specialty fonts? (It seems like a lot to me. A lot a lot.)
posted by rtha at 6:45 AM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's a profit motive in all kinds of research. I'm not sure why it's surprising at all that one exists here. If the font face proves to be useful, it's damn well worth it.
posted by odinsdream at 6:45 AM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I didn't have any trouble reading it. I didn't really love how it looked, but it was clear and readable. I am not dyslexic, but I do have some odd visual difficulties that sometimes cause me to misread words (in short -- I don't always see letters, so my brain fills in the gaps, occasionally with hilarious consequences). One problem, though -- the "article set in Dyslexie" version is either a) rather smaller or b) magnified somewhat larger than the original article, so it didn't seem to be a fair test to look at the two of them to see which would be more readable.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:47 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fascinating. If the study done on this font yielded results that promising, I'd love to see larger-scale testing done. The study itself concludes:
Reading with the font “Dyslexie” does not improve the reading speed for reading words. However some specific type of reading errors are decreased, but others are increased. Overall the dyslectics read fewer errors while reading the words printed in the font “Dyslexie”. Further research in needed to examine the hypotheses that the reading speed and accuracy increases while reading texts that are printed in the font “Dyslexie”.
That is fairly promising, actually. And the hypothesis behind it is pretty interesting, as I know next to nothing about what dyslexia entails.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:48 AM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Interesting idea, assuming that the independent research show actual improvement in readability it could be a valuable tool. But I do concur with the concern that the cost of the font face makes it less than useful as a tool.
posted by vuron at 6:49 AM on August 3, 2011


I think he only meant to charge 45.00 euros for it. [/DYSLEXIACOMEDY]
posted by damehex at 6:54 AM on August 3, 2011 [22 favorites]


The study itself concludes:

Interesting. The rough read is that there's something here -- but his answers may not be the best ones. I'm guessing that there are probably multiple issues with dyslexia, and this may attack some at the cost of others.

Reading the font myself, it does initially seem to be slower to read -- but I don't have enough text, or enough clear text, to really judge.

It's a fascinating concept, one I think is probably worth further investigation.
posted by eriko at 6:58 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


450 euros for a well-designed, comprehensive type family is not unheard of at all.
posted by Sreiny at 7:00 AM on August 3, 2011


Now that the concept has been formulated, I'll bet you could make the letters less ugly and keep the readability.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:00 AM on August 3, 2011


Dyslexie is not a cure, but I see the font as something like a wheelchair.

I wonder if he hopes it will be mandated like wheelchair access and paid for with entitlement monies.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:03 AM on August 3, 2011


And in the other direction.
posted by empath at 7:06 AM on August 3, 2011


450 euros for a well-designed, comprehensive type family is not unheard of at all.

True, 645 US Dollars for a font family isn't unheard of, but it's not exactly something an average citizen can spend money on.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:07 AM on August 3, 2011


Not dyslexic here. I read the sample page, to see how it felt. It wasn't bad, but the two things that struck me were 1) the way strokes getter thinner as they go up reminds me of a font that was everywhere in the 90s, and 2) not to be cruel, but it honestly reminds me of Comic Sans.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:12 AM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


It looks like a typewriter font to me. Did dyslexics have less of a problem reading typewritten documents?

Also, I don't get the myriad of mental models going on this discussion. What does "remember in pictures" have to do with "rotates/flips letters". And if rotating letters is a problem, why would slightly rotating the 'j' vs the 'i' them make them more distinguishable?
posted by DU at 7:15 AM on August 3, 2011


it's not exactly something an average citizen can spend money on.

How so? People spend much more on shoes. This font could profoundly change your life. I imagine you could also eventually get that purchase subsidized one way or another.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:20 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


How so? People spend much more on shoes.

$645 US dollars for a pair of shoes would be considered insane and foolish in my social circle.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:23 AM on August 3, 2011 [8 favorites]


True, 645 US Dollars for a font family isn't unheard of, but it's not exactly something an average citizen can spend money on.

Definitely, but I wonder if this would be geared towards graphic designers that produce materials for those with dyslexia.
posted by Sreiny at 7:30 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can we at least agree that Netherlands English is adorable?
posted by psoas at 7:32 AM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


not to be cruel, but it honestly reminds me of Comic Sans.

That was exactly my first thought too.
posted by vbfg at 7:37 AM on August 3, 2011


1 Does using a different font help? Well, people working in dyslexia kind of “know” it does, right? Look at the Iansyst website list of fonts linked by rtha. However:

  • The authors of Dyslexie explain its operation by means of the “magnocellular theory” of dyslexia, which was largely condemned in the big review of the effect of visual processing errors on dyslexia in PEDRIATICS in 2011. However, this is a very contentious area, so I won't add anything more to that.

  • My understanding is that dyslexic people make errors in phonological processing, not orthographic, so it’s not that they turn “b” into “p”, it’s that they can’t turn “happy” into “ha-pee”. (e.g. The Rose Report, 2009) The dyslexic reader can perceive the letters correctly, but putting them together in his or her head to make sounds and words doesn’t work. So a font change may not help. Then again, I'm certain some individuals will have problems just with recognising letters, so there will certainly be a non-zero number of people a different font may help.

  • (Not entirely serious…) Some people think that making it harder to read text helps you learn the content! (Though they use Comic Sans as something “harder” to read.) Not so good if you can't read it at all, of course.

    2 Will this Dyslexie font in particular help?

  • The paper describing Dyslexie says: "Reading with the font “Dyslexie” does not improve the reading speed for reading words. However some specific type of reading errors are decreased, but others are increased. Overall the dyslectics read fewer errors while reading the words printed in the font “Dyslexie”. Further research in needed to examine the hypotheses that the reading speed and accuracy increases while reading texts that are printed in the font “Dyslexie”." So maybe some reduction in total error count, maybe not: and some types of error increased.

  • It’s not that the only alternative to Dyslexie is Times New Roman. To give one example, Comic Sans is hugely popular for reading, and is universal, on every machine and operating system and web browser. Lots of other highly-readable fonts are now common. So getting people to use other standard fonts is going to be a simpler and perhaps more effective measure than purchasing Dyslexie. Other fonts have many of the features of Dyslexie, like larger openings in letters. So the benefit of Dyslexie over Comic Sans and other ubiquitous fonts may be small when cost and availability is taken into account.

    So the science is inconclusive as yet, and we already have various fonts that may help people. But I'm not an academic any more and this is a complex field.

    It’s not that Dyslexie will not be helpful too: it might. But I can’t see a reason for it to have a big positive impact, because we already have Comic Sans and other standard fonts. It will probably depend on the marketing, though: and that is a very good video! As to their motives, well, hell yeah, if they've done some user research and spent some time and money on their work, and it helps some people, why shouldn't they earn an income from it? I do, as you'll probably have gathered from the above. If it really helps people then Apple or Microsoft will licence it from them and it'll appear absolutely everywhere at no cost to the end user, I'm sure.

  • posted by alasdair at 7:40 AM on August 3, 2011 [9 favorites]


    I just heard a muffled explosion come from Leslieville. Is #250 okay?
    posted by scruss at 7:45 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


    not to be cruel, but it honestly reminds me of Comic Sans.

    Hey, now. It's much closer to Hobo.
    posted by Sys Rq at 7:50 AM on August 3, 2011


    I think it's interesting that folks are comparing the font to Comic Sans. One of my uncles is dyslexic, and he sends out all of his emails in Comic Sans because he just "likes the way it looks". So I guess it makes sense that Dyslexie looks similar! Am definitely going to send this article to him now - thanks for posting.
    posted by sc114 at 7:55 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


    So the takeaway from this post is that people who typeset things in Comic Sans are all secretly dyslexic. I will put this knowledge to good use the next time I get something in Comic Sans: "I know your secret, and it's ok. I don't care that you're dyslexic."
    posted by Eideteker at 7:57 AM on August 3, 2011 [8 favorites]


    Right, I was thinking Comic Sans with enough kerning to make you gasp a little bit, then reproduced by an old Xerox machine. Whatever works.
    posted by rahnefan at 7:57 AM on August 3, 2011


    It's a great idea to have a dyslexic person help design a typeface for dyslexics, but the result is likely to be useless if a professional type designer isn't also involved. Unfortunately, that seems to be the case here.
    posted by Typographica at 8:18 AM on August 3, 2011


    Maybe it works, but he needs testing to show efficacy. What's his p-value?

    Without enduser testing any new UI, like this one is really just a best guess. It may be a good guess (who knows?), but I'm certain that it could stand refinement with a careful evaluation-redesign cycle.
    posted by bonehead at 8:29 AM on August 3, 2011


    Not dyslexic here. I read the sample page, to see how it felt. It wasn't bad, but the two things that struck me were 1) the way strokes getter thinner as they go up reminds me of a font that was everywhere in the 90s, and 2) not to be cruel, but it honestly reminds me of Comic Sans.

    I was sure I'd read somewhere that comic sans was extremely dyslexia-friendly. A quick google finds a lot of dyslexia forums in which its improved readability is taken as read, but its informality is bemoaned as inappropriated, so these are definitely not the "your grandma" type of readers.
    posted by piato at 8:31 AM on August 3, 2011


    Unfortunately, that seems to be the case here.

    How so? I mean, in what way is it useless because a professional type designer didn't make this? (I am not a designer nor any kind of expert in font design in particular, so I'm curious, not snarky!)
    posted by rtha at 8:44 AM on August 3, 2011


    Alternatively, there's Gill Dyslexic, at a much more affordable price point of $2.
    posted by blue t-shirt at 8:54 AM on August 3, 2011 [8 favorites]


    > 1) the way strokes getter thinner as they go up reminds me of a font that was everywhere in the 90s, and 2) not to be cruel, but it honestly reminds me of Comic Sans.

    1) Template Gothic?
    2) Many handwriting fonts help dyslexics because the letters are nonuniform (the d will not be a mirror of b; neither will look like a flipped, rotated p, and so on). I've read elsewhere that Comic Sans is genuinely good in this regard, because it's a very clearly drawn handwriting font.
    posted by ardgedee at 9:09 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


    I suspect I'm slightly dyslexic, and the experience of reading Dyslexie and Gill Dyslexic kind of confirms that for me. They seem WAY easier -- like I didn't know I was struggling when reading other fonts, but now I do. Could just be some kind of placebo/confirmation bias effect, who knows, but subjectively I'm feeling a pretty significant difference.

    And thanks for linking to Gill Dyslexic, blue-t-shirt. Given that a similarly-designed font already exists for $2, I'm a bit more puzzled by and suspicious of the 450 euro price tag for Dyslexie.
    posted by treepour at 9:15 AM on August 3, 2011


    Reading it felt as if each of the letters had a lead weight stuck to the bottom and none of them were moving anywhere. It was almost painful in its stolidity - but with dancing and indistinguishable letters I can see it would help.
    posted by Francis at 9:16 AM on August 3, 2011


    Given that a similarly-designed font already exists for $2, I'm a bit more puzzled by and suspicious of the 450 euro price tag for Dyslexie.

    I assume that Gill Dyslexic was banged out on the quick following the recent publicity about Boer's work.
    posted by blue t-shirt at 9:35 AM on August 3, 2011


    There are a great many areas of concern with this topic, starting with the fact universally ignored in these blue-sky projects: Dyslexic readers will never encounter the allegedly superior font in daily life.
    posted by joeclark at 9:49 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Template Gothic it is! God, I hated that font. Were you doing graphic design in the 90s, ardgegee?

    At least in these fonts for dyslexics, there is purpose and uniformity (thick at the bottom, think at the top), where Template Gothic just seemed to do it willy-nilly.

    And looking at the bottom-heaviness of Gill Dyslexic, I think it would work great for typesetting dwarfs speaking in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, analogous to his using small caps when Death's speaking.
    posted by benito.strauss at 9:50 AM on August 3, 2011


    There's an apparent contradiction here that seems critical to understanding the importance of the study. At the top of the page, in the Dyslexie typeface, it's indicated that the dyslexics were able to read Dyslexie better than normal readers ("The dyslexics made fewer errors, than the normal readers, on the EMT with the font 'Dyselxie'...") but in the article it says the dyslexics made fewer errors with Dyslexie than with a normal typeface, and seems to indicate only dyslexics were involved in the study.
    posted by nzero at 10:10 AM on August 3, 2011


    the fact universally ignored in these blue-sky projects: Dyslexic readers will never encounter the allegedly superior font in daily life.

    But they can make their web browser use it by default, their e-readers, their OS, etc, until most of their daily reading uses the font, even if roadsigns and restaurant menus won't be included. I can imagine it slowly spreading by word of mouth if it really is helpful.
    posted by -harlequin- at 10:40 AM on August 3, 2011


    Template Gothic it is! God, I hated that font.

    Me too. One day in photoshop, I ran a filter over some rastered text in a regular sans-serif font, and the result was... that font!

    It was close enough that I don't think it was coincidence. If so, then not only is it ugly, it's not even designed, it's just some "happy" accident masquerading as effort.
    posted by -harlequin- at 10:44 AM on August 3, 2011


    Did anyone else see the post title and think it might be about this eighties TVOntario show for kids? (Note: link is to youtube vid; Wikipedia article is here.)
    posted by dendritejungle at 10:58 AM on August 3, 2011


    I have no idea if this is bogus, but I just adore the idea of "weighting" the bottom of the letters to keep readers from mentally flipping them upside-down.
    posted by straight at 11:02 AM on August 3, 2011


    Alternatively, there's Gill Dyslexic, at a much more affordable price point of $2.

    Metafilter: My eyes are, like, gliding over the letters as if they were lubed up or something...
    posted by randomkeystrike at 12:09 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Yeah, the Gill Dyslexic users seemed to like the word 'lubed' a lot. Some sort of typosexual fetish.
    posted by benito.strauss at 1:02 PM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


    If it's any good, it will be on Pirate Bay in days. If it isn't, one can probably conclude that it isn't all that.
    posted by jaduncan at 3:07 PM on August 3, 2011


    Did anyone else see the post title and think it might be about this eighties TVOntario show for kids?

    If so, it would be deleted as a double.
    posted by Sys Rq at 4:51 PM on August 3, 2011


    I liked gil dyslexic better than the expensive one. Each word seemed to jump out as a separate word.

    Why do both websites have light blue text on a tan/yellow background?
    posted by gjc at 5:10 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


    not to be cruel, but it honestly reminds me of Comic Sans.

    Me too, much more than any of the non-CS alternatives listed so far.
    posted by flabdablet at 5:26 PM on August 3, 2011


    About Comic Sans, that's supposed to be the easiest of the default Microsoft fonts for dyslexics to read. http://www.comicsanscriminal.com (8th page).
    posted by subdee at 6:53 PM on August 3, 2011


    This Comic Sans – dyslexia connection is amazing. I'd never heard of it before. Where's the psychologist generating 50 different fonts, each embodying a different theory of what dyslexics prefer, and testing them all? Shit, I almost wish I was entering a Psych Ph.D. program so I could do it.
    posted by benito.strauss at 8:06 PM on August 3, 2011


    Here is a version of it for $2.
    posted by Mike Mongo at 5:52 AM on August 4, 2011


    Um...
    posted by Sys Rq at 8:07 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


    the fact universally ignored in these blue-sky projects: Dyslexic readers will never encounter the allegedly superior font in daily life.

    Never? Really? Every major piece of software for supporting people with dyslexia I know has the option to apply user-selected fonts to text. And at least one installs a specially-readable font, Tiresias, designed with just this "blue-sky" thinking in mind. If Dyslexie takes off then one of us will licence it, I'm sure. Many people with dyslexia have techniques and coping strategies, and "change everything I have to read into that font that helps" is certainly one of them.

    Provision of the software varies from country to country, of course. For example, almost every school district in Sweden seems to have software for supporting dyslexia and university students in the UK with dyslexia get free software. Your country may not have such provision. This font is designed by a person in the Netherlands, and may be more applicable for his or her system. For example, Dedicon in Amsterdam (formerly the Dutch Library for the Blind) provides free books for people with dyslexia through the school system in electronic formats, currently PDF. It's entirely plausible they'll buy a licence to produce these books in Dyslexie, and every dyslexic kid in the Netherlands could get it.

    I'll agree that the ubiquity of helpful standard fonts counts against Dyslexie's potential success. And I'd argue that the benefits of Dyslexie over, say, Comic Sans, are probably marginal. But there might well be a niche for this, especially in the Netherlands. It's a small industry, after all.
    posted by alasdair at 10:05 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


    I'm wary of being labeled as a spammer, but I'm the maker of Gill Sans. Thanks to those that mentioned it. I also make a mono-spaced version for programmers called Mono Dyslexic. If anyone has any questions let me know.
    posted by pixelscript at 11:49 AM on August 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


    And by Gill Sans I mean Gill Dyslexic - D'oh!
    posted by pixelscript at 11:52 AM on August 4, 2011


    Hi!

    Showing up in a thread about a thing you made or hand a hand in making does not make you a spammer, at all - posting a thread about a thing you made makes you a spammer. So no worries!
    posted by rtha at 12:17 PM on August 4, 2011


    > And by Gill Sans I mean Gill Dyslexic - D'oh!

    Thanks for the clarification. I was about to ask how the dog was doing.
    posted by scruss at 1:30 PM on August 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


    Alasdair, I know perfectly well that one can command his software to use only one font. But try doing that in a Web browser. Know any dyslexics who can edit a user.css file?

    Want to wager which of the following scenarios is more disruptive to dyslexic reading – use of typefaces other than the allegedly superior one, or real-world Web layouts that break when every jot of text is turned into that allegedly superior font?

    Let’s stipulate that nothing will go wrong with use of a single font in all computer applications. Kudos. Now how about the rest of the world?

    I am hardly a newbie at this topic and have been reading about engineered typefaces for dyslexics for more than a decade. None of the research stands up, to the extent there actually is any research, and precisely none of these typefaces, all of which are by implication superior not only to conventional faces but to all others in their category, has ever caught on. Even if these faces provably solved a problem (they don’t), they aren’t actually used. Even if they are, they are used so infrequently that, with minor rounding errors, my statement is correct: Dyslexics will never see them.
    posted by joeclark at 10:01 AM on August 10, 2011


    If people put this link as a bookmark:

    javascript:var%20s=document.createElement('style');s.type='text/css';s.innerHTML='*{font-family:Gill_Dyslexic%20!important;font-size:22px%20!important;}';document.getElementsByTagName('body')[0].appendChild(s);void(s);

    All they have to do is click it to change the web font. While I agree not all sites will look optimal I don't believe your pessimism is warranted.
    posted by pixelscript at 6:29 AM on August 14, 2011


    Know any dyslexics who can edit a user.css file?

    No, but I know several who would easily be capable of opening Firefox's options panel, clicking Content, then clicking the Advanced button next to "Fonts & Colors" and following their noses.

    Having just done that myself, I'm now looking at an all-comic-sans Web. It isn't a pretty sight.
    posted by flabdablet at 5:50 PM on August 15, 2011


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