What do Jennifer Aniston, Thomas Edison, Cher, Andy Warhol, Steve Jobs, Steven Spielberg, Pablo Picasso, and Ozzy Osbourne have in common?
They were all diagnosed with dyslexia.
(Albert Einstein, Alexander Graham Bell, Galileo Galilei, and Leonardo da Vinci were also believed to be dyslexic but were never officially diagnosed.)
Dyslexia is a disorder that affects the ability to read, write, and interpret letters and symbols despite normal (or often above average) intelligence. Researchers estimate that 3-10% of the population is dyslexic while up to 20% may suffer from some degree of symptoms.
The National Institute of Health identified many neurological and cognitive differences that contribute to dyslexia and the vast majority appear to be caused by genetics rather than environmental trauma. Dyslexia was first identified in 1881 but didn’t become widely known until 1980. For years, dyslexics have been dismissed as “stupid” or “lazy.”
A dyslexic’s brain is perfectly healthy but the frustration associated with dyslexia can cause emotional and psychological problems that last a lifetime. A dyslexic preschooler is typically unaffected but then pressure begins to mount in subsequent years as the student fails to meet reading standards and teacher/parent expectations. Dyslexic children frequently have problems with social situations, leading to poor self-image and less peer acceptance. Dyslexia can hinder oral language development, too: Affected kids might stammer, stutter, or have trouble finding the right words.
Dutch designer Christian Boer suffered from dyslexia as a young man and decided to invent a typeface to help others like him. His Dyslexie fonts emphasize key differences in characters so that few of them are similar and/or easily confused with each other.
Here’s some of the design features that make Dyslexie easier for dyslexics to read:
Boer isn’t the only designer who believed that the presentation of text has a significant impact on its accessibility to dyslexics. In the past thirty years, many studies have been done about which fonts/typefaces increased/decreased readability.
A study by Luz Rello and Ricardo Baeza-Yates suggests that Helvetica, Courier, Arial, Verdana test high for reading performance. Sans Serif, monospaced, and Roman fonts were also favorable. Italic fonts were most difficult for dyslexics.
Other fonts believed to have “strong legibility” include Garamond, Myriad, and Computer Modern Unicode.
Herman Bouma and C.P. Legein did a study in 1977 that suggested crowding between characters limits recognition in dyslexic readers. “Difficulty recognizing letters occurs in the parafovea of the retina of the eye when visual objects are too close together in relation to their distance from the center of vision.” Based on Bouma and Legien’s findings, many type designers have tried greater spacing between letters as a way to reduce crowding and make it more readable to dyslexics.
In addition to Dyslexie, there are currently several other options available that were created specifically to aid dyslexics.
Read Regular is “designed with an individual approach for each of the individual characters.” For example, the ‘b’ character doesn’t simply mirror the ‘d’ character—each character is unique. Unnecessary details (like serifs) have been removed to create striking outlines. Ascending and descending lines are long and clean. Space inside of letters like ‘o’ or ‘g’ is open and free of clutter.
Most typefaces are tested for legibility after they’re designed. Rob Hillier refined and modified his Sylexiad (get it?) typeface based on feedback from dyslexic readers during a series of tests. He compared early versions of his font to Arial and Times New Roman. This manner of progressive testing raised questions over whether or not dyslexics read words as shapes, a core principle of type design.
OpenDyslexic is an open source typeface that includes regular, bold, italic and bold-italic styles. It’s updated constantly based on feedback from the dyslexic community and is free for commercial and personal usage. According to their site, OpenDyslexic is “inspired by Andika, Apple Casual, Lexia Readable, Sassoon, and Comic Sans.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, there’s no “cure” for dyslexia—it’s a condition that’s hard-wired into the brain caused by inherited traits—but most children with dyslexia are capable of succeeding in school with tutoring or focused educational assistance. Thanks to awareness, research, and technological advances, plenty of options are now available to help kids previously referred to as “stupid” or “lazy” achieve great things and be the next Albert Einstein. Or Steven Spielberg. Or Ozzy Osbourne.
June 30th, 2017 by Extensis
We published this article about a year ago and it was hit! So, we decided to bring this post back from the blog archives for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!
You’re probably aware of the hubbub surrounding the designer Fiona O’Leary and her new gadget, Spector. A hand-held device that recognizes text and colors in the real world, and converts them in real-time to the exact typeface, size, leading, kerning, and Pantone code, Spector has been covered in every design publication from DesignBoom to Wired to The Verge, and elsewhere. Fiona graciously took the time to answer a few questions for us.
Let’s start with your telling us a bit about your background. How did you first become interested in design and invention?
I graduated with a Bachelors in Visual Communication from the National College of Art and Design in Dublin in 2010. After that, I worked as a graphic designer at a studio called Creative Inc, in Dublin, for three years. While I was there I gained a lot of valuable experience about printing and typography. However, I wanted more of a challenge, and to do more interactive projects, so I applied to Fabrica, a communication research unit in Italy run by United Colors of Benetton.
Throughout my one-year residency at Fabrica I got to experiment with a lot of different types of projects, from UI design to urban design to product design.
I got really interested in designing physical objects, and decided to apply to the Royal College of Art in London. They had a course there called Design Products, and I really liked the sound of that. It isn’t your typical product design course; it’s split into 5 platforms, which are groups of 8 to 10 students, and lead by two tutors. Each platform has a different theme, and challenges a different facade of product design.
I joined Platform 24, which is called Object Mediated Interactions, and is run by Durrell Bishop and Oscar Lhermitte. We focused on the field of product design that connects new, digital developments with the physical environment. It was all about designing solutions that take the systems behind products—as well as their real properties—into account.
What was the inspiration for Spector? Is there a story behind it?
I came up with this idea out of frustration. When you’re designing for print, it never looks the same on screen as it does in the finalized print.
You have no idea of the scale of the page, and the typography and colors often visualize differently too. I thought, if you are going to design for print on a screen, why not start with print material? And why not make it interactive?
As designers, we always collect lots of nice samples of inspiration. I wanted to utilize these samples by making them interactive.
Tell us a bit more about Spector. How have you felt about all the publicity that it has been getting? Did you anticipate that it would go this viral?
I see this tool as a way of understanding typography, and making typesetting more transparent, by communicating invisible factors such as size, kerning, and leading. This helps educate the user about typography.
I also see it as a way of taking the guessing game out of typesetting, so that when it comes to printing your book or page from Adobe InDesign, since you took it from a piece of printed material, you already know what it’s going to look like. I see it as useful tool for students who are just starting out as a graphic designer.
That said, I didn’t anticipate it going viral at all! However, I can understand how people identify with it, as it addresses a very common problem. It is nice to see how passionate people are about it.
Why did you choose to create a physical gadget, rather than software?
I chose to create a physical gadget for two reasons. The first is more technical: it would be difficult to write software for every camera that exists on every iPhone and Android phone. It made more sense to write software for a specific camera, which we had control over.
Also, the camera needed to be at a specific focal length, to make sure that the samples that were sent over to the database would be consistent.
The second reason is I wanted to design a tool for graphic designers that would be physical. I did a lot of research into the physical tools graphic designers had before computers, and they were really beautiful. I wanted my device to hark back to those tools.
I wanted it to be reminiscent of them, interactive, and useful. Thats why the visual language of Spector recalls a loupe.
How does Spector work? (Go ahead and get technical, if you like.)
Spector’s software works as an InDesign plugin, with a live feed of the camera. The hardware connects to the computer via bluetooth.
The user presses the button on the device, takes a picture of the font with a macro camera, and matches this picture to a font database. Spector can only detect one typeface at a time (that helps with typeface recognition), however it can detect several colors at the same time.
High resolution and a sharp image are pretty essential, too. A sample has to be right-side up, as well. But beyond quality-related elements, probably the most important thing is that you have a varied sample of characters. In fact, there is a preference for certain characters: the letter O is usually not very distinctive, but a g or G can pinpoint a font from a single glyph.
Having more distinctive characters lowers the chance of Spector detecting the wrong font. In terms of memory, it can store up to 10 fonts at the same time, and 10 colors, or 20 fonts and 0 colors. Basically, it can store 20 snap pictures.
Spector uses machine learning, and it is all based on algorithms. For kerning and leading, it needs to be as horizontal as possible. Subsequently, detecting a typeface or font by the shape of the letters is the straightforward part.
Once there’s a match for a font, Spector’s metrics calculate the leading by comparing the baselines, if there are multiple lines in the sample. The kerning can be calculated by the taking the leftmost edge of the first recognized character, and the rightmost edge of the last recognized character, in a series of recognized characters.
This length is compared to the metrics to give a relative kerning size.
At the moment, Spector can only detect up to 48pt fonts, but this is something were working on as we continue to play around with different types of lenses and focal points.
Ultimately, I see it as a tool for typesetting—using books and posters and signage as your source material—rather than big billboards, as they would most likely use headline or display fonts, rather than body copy fonts.
Where do you see yourself—and Spector—going in the future? Will you be bringing this product to market?
I do hope to bring Spector to market, and am currently looking for streams of funding. There is a lot to do, but I think with the right resources this product could be kick-started in the next year or two. I envision a special type specimen book being sold with the tool, too.
As for myself, I want to keep designing products like this, products that help us understand software. I have another product—which was my other graduation project—called MIMO, which challenges our daily interaction with the process of copy-and-paste. I would like to bring this market, too, eventually.
For now, the design process is far from over. The real work is only beginning.
Spector had been my graduation project up until now, just me working on it, with some technical help from an interaction designer, David van Gemeran, so I was really making decisions simply based on what I like. Now that I am working on bringing it to market, the real roadblocks will begin.
David Berlow entered the type industry in 1978. As a co-founder (with Roger Black) of The Font Bureau, David has developed more than 300 new and revised type designs for The Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly, Newsweek, Esquire, Rolling Stone, and many companies. He is a member of the Type Directors Club, and of the Association Typographique International. We’re so glad he agreed to participate in an especially short but sweet installment of our mini-interview series, 4 Questions 4.
1. How did you get into the business of type design?
I graduated college as a commercial artist in 1977 with a bachelor of science in art from a school that only taught fine arts. I moved to NYC and looked for a job in advertising and magazines. That lifestyle didn’t seem to fit, but when offered a job “drawing letters” at the Mergenthaler Linotype Company, that fit.
2. What fonts or type design trends are you loving these days?
All, and none. I’m not a picker. As a tool maker, I love what I’m making for others to use, and when I let it go, I love the next one. Loving the ones in the field (fonts), or what people do with them, (design trends), are for others to hash out while I look for the next ones.
3. Which of your designs are you most proud of, and why?
All… and none, following the last answer.
4. Describe your dream project.
Pride comes to my work when a user employs one of my fonts in the recommended range of sizes for that font, with other styles of that and other font families properly used for other sizes, weights, and widths, to form good typography. When the font is both apt for the purpose and adeptly used in reading, navigation or identity, I swell, quietly.
Want to learn more about the newest type trends? Download our Type Trends Survey Report and get in the know. You’ll learn the latest and greatest typographic trends that other creative professionals are using to design their masterpieces:
Last year, after we published this article, we learned that “finding the right cursive font” is a popular topic. So, we decided to publish this post again. Enjoy!
The Perfect Cursive for Your Perfect Project
Say you’ve got a project that calls for a font that’s elegant and fancy (wedding invitation, perhaps) but you can’t find any exciting, new options in your Microsoft Word library (apologies to overused workhorses like Brush Script and Monotype Corsiva).
No need to panic—as Agent Mulder might say, “The truth is out there.”
Pictured: Helvetica Neue Condensed Light, definitely NOT a cursive typeface. But I digress…
Cursive fonts (also known as script, calligraphy, or handwritten fonts) are readily available online for download. Here are some useful resources to help you find the right font for your design (and bolster your tired collection of Word options):
Kerry Hughes at Creative Bloq lists the 20 Best Free Cursive Fonts that are “free to use commercially, not just on personal projects.”
Pictured: Debby typeface, “works well for greeting cards” according to Hughes
Font Squirrel provides some Help Installing Fonts for Windows and Mac with instructions and video tutorials for desktop and web fonts.
Microsoft has some tips on how to Troubleshoot Font Problems in Microsoft Word and also created a quick and easy way to find out which fonts come installed with various Windows products that lets you sort by product or font name.
Nicole Martinez of eHow presents Common Cursive Fonts for Mac and PC.
Pictured: Edwardian Script, available on every version of Word
You might be interested in a previous blog post we did about how to choose the right cursive font that discusses the history of cursive fonts and why they’re so effective as a storytelling device.
Creative Bloq also did a comprehensive list of best places to find open source fonts that’s pretty useful but not specifically for Word so you might need to do some parsing.
Hopefully this helps you discover some exciting new typeface options for your special event. Or at the very least, gives you some alternatives to the ubiquitous options you see every day.
Happy hunting, type nerds! Enjoy your tour of the world’s finest pangrams, including my personal favorite, “Turgid saxophones blew over Mick’s jazzy quaff.”
Want to know more about cursive? Check out our post about vintage typography in classic automobiles.
For more information on the latest font trends, take a look at our Type Trends Survey Report:
Extensis Breakfast Donation Drive
How does free breakfast help our community?
Don’t they say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? Not only does food fuel inspiration, but it’s also great leverage to garner support for a good cause. Jennifer Grebil, Extensis Customer Service Supervisor, knows this better than anyone. She also knows how to prepare a mean breakfast and wanted to do something good for the local community. So, Jennifer and her team did what they do best (other than support our customers!) and cooked a breakfast feast for Extensis employees in exchange for a cash donation that benefited not one, but two charities:
Family Dogs New Life
FDNL is a no-kill dog shelter dedicated to saving dogs of all shapes, sizes, and breeds because, like their motto says, “…all dogs deserve a second chance.” They provide shelter for dogs that need it. They also offer adoption services for people interested in giving these animals a loving home.
Free Hot Soup
Junko Suzuki, Extensis Graphic Designer, and a few of her compassionate and generous friends started Free Hot Soup. This isn’t your typical non-profit organization, but simply a group of everyday people with a desire to help the homeless during this unusually cold winter. They use their own resources to make and deliver soup to the homeless population in Portland. Free Hot Soup also delivers blankets, coats, and gloves. Their slogan: “200% effort made for houseless folks.”
On Thursday morning, Extensis employees were lured into the lounge as soon as they stepped off the elevators by the scent of French toast and the sizzling sound of sausages on the griddle. The customer service team concocted quite a spread that included French toast, sausage (vegetarian as well), eggs, potatoes, all the fixings to make a breakfast burrito, and of course, OJ. All this was available to team Extensis in exchange for a donation of any size.
Extensis raised 800 dollars, which was split between both charities! The power of breakfast is real!
Here, at Extensis, we develop font management and digital asset management software and we have a blast doing it. To learn more about what we do and our company culture, follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Interested in joining our team? Check out our careers page.
April 6th, 2017 by Extensis
How did a global media & publishing firm save 30% in spend with a font management solution?
Font management plays a key role at SANDOW, a rapidly growing global publishing and media company with brands spanning design, luxury, fashion and beauty. SANDOW’s rapid growth not only brought an ever expanding list of brands, but with each brand came their own sets of fonts. This skyrocketed SANDOW’s font collection into the tens of thousands making the need for effective font management critical.
We sat down with Michael Shavalier, Director of Creative Operations at SANDOW and asked him a few questions about his font management challenges and how they were resolved.
Extensis: Why are fonts and managing them so important to SANDOW?
Michael: Being a publishing and media company with magazines and websites that span the globe, fonts are a key component to our business. Brand consistency and license compliance are at the top of the list where fonts are concerned.
Each brand has its own fonts, which they should be able to manage. Even though the brands are well separated, there’s a lot of synergy and cross-pollination between brands. There are separate design groups, but at the same time there is some overlap.
Michael: One of the biggest problems our designers had is when they were asked to do something across brands. They had to load the other brand’s version of the font, and may have conflicted with other fonts on their system. Sometimes they had to spend a good deal of time trying to work through the glitches of having font conflicts which wasn’t productive or efficient. Now, with a centralized system that manages our fonts, we’re able to identify the font right away and make sure everyone is using the same version. It’s one less thing for everyone to manage. We now know across all brands which font is needed, where it is, or where it should come from and if we’ve got enough licenses. I don’t see many emails anymore saying “this brand is using this weird font, and I don’t know where to get it from”.
Extensis: What were the biggest challenges that lead you to implement a font manager?
Michael: As the company grew and became a little more corporate – taking on more and more smaller companies and brands – we had to integrate everyone. One of the problems we realized pretty quickly is, like so many startup companies, we had buckets of fonts. They were either on servers or people’s desktops, or you’d find 15 copies of the same font, or 30 copies of Helvetica but they weren’t the same. I’d venture to say we had tens of thousands of fonts.
It was really causing a lot of havoc with the design teams, and it was also causing concerns about compliance.
SANDOW already had a different font management solution in place, but when they experienced limitations in their ability to manage groups effectively, instability with other key applications and technical support that was non-existent, they made the switch to Universal Type Server. Since making the switch, they have experienced 10,000 fewer fonts, a reduction in IT Requests by almost 60%, and a 30% reduction in spend.
Extensis: Where are you today with fully implementing font management at SANDOW?
Michael: Our first phase was basically to replace the other font manager for every user that was on it. We’re replacing it all now and we’re pretty close to being done. That would be at least three of our main brand groups.
Michael: The font manager we had been using previously fell short in critical areas, in particular control in setting up users and groups, serving out fonts to them and in addition lack of technical support. Universal Type Server has given us the control we need and has excellent technical support.
For more on font management best practices, download our font management best practices guide.
Believe it or not, there are quite a few Helvetica font alternatives you can use.
A few years ago, we published an article to help designers and typography enthusiasts explore alternatives to Helvetica. The article was a hit! So, we decided it would be beneficial to publish the article again for your reading enjoyment.
Love it or hate it, Helvetica remains one of the most popular, ubiquitous, and enduring fonts of all time. It’s featured in countless corporate logos, remains the go-to choice to convey a certain hipster, ironically neutral aesthetic (American Apparel comes to mind), and is even the subject of its own documentary.
What happens when Rights Management & DAM join forces?
First of all, what is Rights Management?
Well, Rights Management is a method organizations use to ensure proper usage of licensed content. For instance, an ad campaign has a plethora of moving parts that need to be managed. From images to music and everything in between, each element can have contractual usage rights based on geography, layout, timeframe, etc. Having to navigate through complex contracts and legal documents to track down content rights for all of those parts can create a bottleneck in the creative process – sometimes bringing the whole process to a costly standstill. Rights Management software removes this bottleneck; saving time and cost.
What is the connection between Digital Asset Management and Rights Management?
If we know that Digital Asset Management gives organizations the capability to categorize, securely share, and organize assets so they can be used efficiently, then we can see how Rights Management provides critical rights clearance information to users so they know what assets they can and can’t use. The marriage between digital asset management and rights management allows organizations to be more effective in managing their content while reducing the risk of violating copyright regulations.
FADEL© ARC meets Extensis Portfolio and Voila!
Coming this summer, the FADEL ARC Connector for Extensis Portfolio will directly align DAM with Rights Management, so users can quickly see and understand the usage rights their assets have. This allows marketing teams and agencies to deliver rapid-fire campaigns without the risk of exposing their organization to litigation due to using unapproved assets.
“As organizations’ digital asset libraries grow exponentially, we are committed to introducing new innovations that enable our clients to more effectively manage their content,” said Toby Martin, Vice President of Development & Strategy at Extensis. “The need for rights management has never been greater.”
FADEL recently spoke at the Extensis Font Management and Digital Asset Management event in New York City.
To listen to their presentation and other partners who spoke at the event, please visit our Future Tech for Creative Teams resource page.
To learn more about how Digital Asset Management software can streamline your organization’s workflow by categorizing, securely sharing, and archiving content, download our free Digital Asset Management Best Practices Guide.
1. How did you get into the business of type design?
I got interested in the idea of type design when I was studying graphic design at college in the mid-seventies. My first fonts were published by FontHaus in the mid-nineties. But I wasn’t really “in the type design business” until the early 2000s, when I started selling fonts on the web. I had quit a full-time position as a graphic designer in 2000 to go into business for myself, hoping to get freelance work doing design, illustration, lettering, and type design. I did do a bit of each of those at first, but my fonts started selling well enough that by 2005 I dropped all other work except type design.
2. What fonts or type design trends are you loving these days?
I was rather dismayed by the grunge and deconstructionist type design of the nineties. It went against everything I knew about design. I didn’t really get it, and I definitely couldn’t do it without pretense. It seemed very reactionary and anti-design. So the trend I’m happiest about is the return to well-designed, well-made fonts.
3. Which of your designs are you most proud of, and why?
Probably Proxima Nova, just because it has become so popular. You always hope when you design a typeface that it will catch on with designers, but you don’t seriously expect it to happen. I feel incredibly lucky.
4. What’s your dream project?
I don’t think I have a “dream project.” I’ve always tended to follow my interests wherever they might lead, without necessarily working toward some big goal. And I have a lot of different interests, mainly in the arts—cartooning, animation, filmmaking, music, graphic design, writing, type design. It’s not really the best strategy. You end up being kind of a dabbler, not really doing anything significant in any particular area. Better to focus on one thing and stick to it if you want to be successful. But somehow type design got traction for me. It wasn’t my only dream job, but, realistically, you’re lucky to get even one of those in life.
Learn more about Mark Simonson and check out his fonts at www.marksimonson.com.
Want to learn more from other font experts? Check out our interview with Kyle Bean, a London-based artist who creates one-of-a-kind designs, distinct illustrations, and playful, concept-driven imagery for a variety of editorial and commercial projects.
What’s hot and what’s not in the font world? Find out by downloading our Type Trends Report. We surveyed thousands of graphic designers, art directors, and creative people from around the globe and combined their thoughts in our most recent report.
Polish your brand management and your image will shine
As a creative professional, you know how important image can be. Whether you are a designer, illustrator, writer, developer, photographer, project manager, or a member of an account team—helping elevate the identity of your clients is a daily task. But have you taken a step back and thought about your own brand management? As a busy professional, developing your own brand often gets pushed aside. But polishing your professional identity could be the difference in progressing your career or gaining a new client.
In this post let’s dive into the art of self-promotion and brand management. I’ll explore some tips about branding for creatives and pose questions to get the ball rolling in your professional development.