Co.Design

Dyslexie, A Typeface Designed To Help Dyslexics Read

Initial research shows that it works.

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. Christian Boer's "Dyslexie" doesn't exactly make the letterforms look conventionally beautiful, but since when is that a prerequisite for well-designed? If it works, it works. And according to an independent study by the University of Twente in Boer's native Netherlands, it does work.

"Dyslexie is not a cure, but it can be something like a wheelchair."

Boer began creating Dyslexie as a personal project while he was a student in 2008. He followed his own instincts about optimizing typography to fit his own eye, then recruited eight other dyslexics (whom he didn't know) to help him iterate through four rounds of design to refine the letterforms. One of the key features of Dyslexie is the extra visual "weight" it adds to the bottom halves of the letters. According to Boer, this is to help pin the letters to the baseline, which helps make them easier to read. But like any serious typographer, Boer made serious individual tweaks to each letter to get it just right. "I can tell you that I have worked on the comma for four hours and the letter "a" for more than 12 hours," he tells Co.Design.

Click here to see this article set in Dyslexie.

A researcher from the University of Twente contacted Boer independently in 2009 to run a study on the font's effectiveness. The small study of 21 dyslexics showed that they made fewer errors when reading text set in Dyslexie compared to "normal" typefaces. Boer set all the text on his website in Dyslexie, and prefers to type in it as well as read. "I hope that I can help people with dyslexia so that the everyday struggle in this information society is a little less," Boer tells Co.Design. "Dyslexie is not a cure, but I see the font as something like a wheelchair." If Dyslexie takes off, perhaps we'll see the rise of whole type studios and foundries dedicated to expanding the graphic options optimized for dyslexic people. After all, why should Dyslexie be the only one?

[Read more about Dyslexie at Boer's site]

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20 Comments

  • Robbie

    A remarkable study. When I was a child, Dyslexia was unknown. At school I was considered to be just another poor reader. Having dealt with this problem for the whole of my life.(aged 73): On occasions it proved impossible to 'cover-up'. When asked to read a live script, I would excuse myself, for that vital few minutes enabling time to transfer the text to memory, I would rehearse the lines parrot fashion. Once Michael B at Capitol caught me out by insisting I read a 60 second radio commercial live during an audition. Needles to say, I didn't get the job. I have however achieved much in life and incidentally read hundreds of voice overs for both radio and TV.

  • Inkblot22

    Holy crap... I can't believe how much faster I can read that, seriously, it's a really interesting internal experience. I fell like I can read almost twice as fast. I'm really excited about it. 

  • Stephenwaner aka Paschar

    Dyslexia AKA Strephosymbolia (Twisted Symbols) Litterally means ( Mirrored text )

    In Summary the word dill = llib to the range of sight of a true Dyslexic reader and wrighter , I have the condition myself ( Internet user name " Paschar "
     

  • Alison Davidson

    I am not a specialist, but I my mother teaches special ed. and I myself was in Special Ed myself for many years, surrounded by dyslexics. Many of the things that this designer took into account when creating the typeface are techniques that people 'on the front lines' use themselves. I think of it like those special devices who help people with auditory processing disorder, it's not a hearing aid but it facilitates the brain side of the process.

    I don't think anyone is under the mistaken impression that dyslexia is a vision problem, but it's hard to explain dyslexia in a five minute video especially when the point of the video is to explain something else. I think this font will also help people who aren't dyslexic, but who have vision problems. It has a lot of useful applications, but perhaps more academic testing should be done before school systems start shelling out the big bucks. The best way to get funding and test subjects for testing is to throw it out into the public like this.

  • Daria1812

    as a diognosed dyslexic, I can say that this is all very interesting... there are actually different kinds of dyslexia... its very hard to explain to no dyslexis and is not weel understood by many people. I will say the confuson i see in these comments is the idea that the letters turn due to our eyes... it is actually some where between when we see and when our brain deals with translating the shape into letters and then words it really is not a vison problem at all. Though there are vison problems that are misstaken as Dyslexia...
    This Font is really something! I can not believe how helpfull it is. My biggest problem has always been "bdpq" "is si" "21 12" but if it was a graphic that i was asked to redraw... I would do it correctly but when it is text i need to "read" it becomes inverted in my head... its almost like when you are typing and you type "teh" instead of "the" ...
    I am extreamly happy that a fellow dyslexic was so proactive and created this font! There have been other fonts created to make reading on computers easier such as Trebuchet. I have always been drawn to that font and never really knew why untill recently when i found that out.
    I really REALLY think this font should become the defalt font.

  • Tristeange

    I think some of the comments here show the problem with dyslexia: even the experts do NOT agree with each other as to what constitutes dyslexia.

    YES there are people (dyslexics or not)  who see letters in 3-d, or the letters move and spin around.  My daughter is one of them. This is also NOT a vision problem;  it's some type of processing difference whether you call it dyslexia or not. And yes, people with this procession difference tend to be very intelligent and creative. They just need the letters to stay still!

      My daughter has NO problems in associating sounds with letters, as long as the letters stay where they are supposed to be and don't move around.  Teaching her intensive phonics isn't the answer when re can look like er; helping her see the letters without them moving around IS.  I applaud this new new font and hope it helps many people.

  • Erwinvdhout


    Hi,I would like to draw attention to our new app, called iPicto, for iPhone, iPod Touchand iPad.This app is designed to guide people with a (mental) disability, with or without dementia/alzheimer, asperger, autism and / or a disorder in communication.This new app iPicto is also a very good tool in learning a way of communication, for example speech difficulties.I refer you for further information, visit the App Store. See for it: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app...and http://ipicto.applereports.com...
    Thank you for attention, Sincerely, Erwin van den HoutThe Netherlands

  • Pam T

    I am a dyslexia consultant, a certified tutor for dyslexia, and dyslexia screening specialist.  Although I appreciate the design and am all for creative, readable fonts, the video is VERY misleading and even damaging. One of the greatest myths that this video perpetuates is that dyslexia is a visual problem.    Dyslexia is a phonemic awareness issue--a language processing issue.  As long as theses myths are perpetuated, those who have dyslexia may not get the help that they need.

    Dyslexics do not typically see letters as 3-D.  Although there are sometimes letter confusions (as is typical in the entire population up to first grade!!) the confusion is not in how somebody with dyslexia sees the letters--it is in how they process language.  A change in typeface does little to remedy this!

    People with scotopic sensitivity may see letters as this designer suggests, but this is NOT typical of most people with dyslexia.  There are dyslexics that have scotopic sensitivity--just like in the rest of the population--but dyslexia is NOT a vision problem. The National Institute of Health has clearly asserted this in hundreds of studies that have been replicated around the world. 

    Also, the study cited is seriously flawed.  Dyslexics are often brilliant people with impressive coping techniques and elaborate guessing strategies. The testing method did not take this into account.  Another perpetuated myth about dyslexia is that dyslexics can not read.  This is untrue!  Many people with dyslexia read well with enough context and word memorization; however, when asked to read (process) nonsense words or read words out of context, they will struggle.

    Again, I am all for great design!  However, the premise of his video and font sets the progress of dyslexia awareness back about 20 years!

  • Stephen Coles

    It's a great idea to have a dyslexic person help design a typeface for dyslexics, but the result is likely to be unsuccessful for most uses if a professional type designer isn't also involved. Unfortunately, that seems to be the case here.

  • Tricia Sutton

    Interesting and should be considered in design of sites and written materials (similar to how people are considering designing for visual impairment more). 

    I didn't see how you can get the font so if anyone can point me in that direction, that would be great.    One concern with new fonts though is if they aren't recognized by applications and browsers yet so get converted. Seems like they should work out a licensing agreement with companies like Microsoft, Adobe... to get this font added to their products to make it more available.

  • Mary Rubin

    I have zero euros but I love this font.  I'm not dyslexic as far as I know, but this font makes it so easy to read quickly!  I wish I could put everything that I want to read into this font. Somebody kick down some euros please.

  • Alec McEachran

    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?

  • Jody Pellerin

    I am not dyslexic but I can read the Dyslexie typography much quicker than the Times Roman or Arial fonts. Very easy to skim.

  • Susan Lee

    Cool example of how design can be an unlikely solution to challenges like a learning disability.  Would have loved to see the numbers on the university study to see just how much better they performed with this typeface.

  • Dub Scrib

    I've seen Dyslexie's research sample size reported as 22 for one group and 23 for the other. Slightly larger than the group research for Rob Hillier's Sylexiad font but still disappointingly low.

    The very wide character spacing may have as much effect on readability as the font design (or more). Copycat fonts like Open Dyslexia have taken on the 'heavy bottom' style as gospel when there's no evidence that's what makes a difference.

    Both Dyslexie and Sylexiad are by graphic designers rather than type designers and it shows. A decent, free alternative is Lexia Readable by K-type. If you can afford it Sassoon Sans already does most of the things these fonts are attempting with way more panache.