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.
Choosing the right font style can be a time-consuming and difficult challenge. Typography experts estimate that there are over 30,000 font families to choose from. Yikes!
So…how do you find the RIGHT font/typeface in an endless sea of options? Some basic guidelines might help.
Finding fresh fonts—an endless effort
If you’re a designer and you’re reading this blog, chances are you love typography and fresh new fonts. If you’re like me, you call out fonts you like and dislike in everyday use for your loved ones (They love this, trust me… just ask my wife). You bookmark good “new free fonts” lists. You hoard way too many on your hard drive.
February 25th, 2014 by Amanda Paull
Welcome to your monthly dose of Creative Fuel, our series that offers up helpful tips and tools to set your creative process in motion. Last month we got serious with Stephen King and the art of writing, now let’s play with type and have some productive fun.
Creative Fuel: Fun and Games for the Designer Brain
Playing games, such as those that test memory and reflex, is great exercise for the brain. Combine this kind of training with specialty fields such as typography and become a font of knowledge. (Sorry, we couldn’t resist).
As we pointed out in another recent post, typography plays a huge role in your design, especially when it comes to the web. It’s important to know how fonts are created and how to most effectively use them. It’s also beneficial to become familiar with typefaces so you know them by name. The games we’re showcasing here can help train your design-driven brain and sharpen your knowledge of type.
Master the Mechanics of Typography
Welcome to Creative Fuel, our series dedicated to jumpstart your creative process with helpful tips and tools from industry experts. This month we’re offering up some valuable advice on the art of writing.
“I believe large numbers of people have at least some talent as writers and storytellers, and that those talents can be strengthened and sharpened.” ~Stephen King
Welcome to Creative Fuel, our series to jumpstart your creative process with helpful tips and tools from industry experts. This month we’re offering up resources to help propel you through the world of color theory.
Each month we bring you our new favorite tool or trick to jumpstart your creativity. November’s Creative Fuel is focused on using the creative process itself as you would any tool—with practice—so you can experience the art of producing your best, self-expanding ideas.
We’re kicking off Creative Fuel—a blog series geared to get your creative synapsis fully firing. Here, we’ll be offering up inspirational tools that can jumpstart the creative process and help your ideas become more powerful, meaningful, and compelling.
This season we released a holiday card site where you could create your own custom holiday greetings to share with friends, family, and if so desired, the rest of the world in our gallery. And you created many, many different cards, in a wide variety of languages. Here are some of our favorites from the gallery – sweet, wacky and out there – we love it all. Have a favorite? Share it with us
December 6th, 2012 by Jim Kidwell
Happy holidays from all of us here at Extensis! We’d like to help you make your days a bit more jolly by helping you spread the joy with a festive holiday e-card.
So, if you’re tired of the same old, same old when it comes to holiday cards try something new with us. Get creative and build your own Holiday cards with our custom greeting card generator. Build something to your own taste or pick a sweet original design.
Need inspiration? Check out the Gallery of greetings submitted by your fellow designers and developers. You’ll find naughty types and nice types, jolly types and humbug types, all spreading their own brand of Holiday cheers and jeers. Give it a browse. And be sure to give some love to all your favorites.