After being featured at the Istanbul Design Biennial, Dyslexie, a typeface designed with dyslexics in mind, is getting a lot of press. It trended on Facebook earlier this week and has been covered by the Guardian, NPR, CBS, and more. But according to Chuck Bigelow, creator of the Lucida Family there’s just one problem: statistically speaking, Dyslexie doesn’t work.
Despite the sudden attention it is getting, Dyslexie is not a new typeface. We first wrote about Dyslexie back in 2011, but even we were three years late to the story: Type designer Christian Boer created Dyslexie in 2008. What this all means is that there’s been plenty of time for Dyslexie to have been run through its paces in scientific studies. In these studies, which Bigelow culled together, Dyslexie has come up short.
Bigelow points out three different studies where Dyslexie proved no better than Arial when it came to reading speed and comprehensibility among dyslexia sufferers. And this isn’t just true of Dyslexie. Similar fonts, like OpenDyslexic, also have no statistic advantages over standard fonts, leading Bigelow to conclude:
In preparing a literature review on dyslexia and typography for a major font vendor, I surveyed more than fifty scientific papers and books about dyslexia, paying special attention to those with typographic relevance. In the scientific literature, I found no evidence that special dyslexia fonts confer statistically significant improvements in reading speed compared to standard, run-of-the-mill fonts. Some studies found that for certain subsets of reading errors, special dyslexia fonts do reduce error rates for dyslexic readers, yet for other subsets of errors, special dyslexic fonts were no better, or in some cases worse; hence, the findings on reading errors are mixed.
So while their hearts might be in the right place, Dyslexie, and typefaces like it, haven’t really been shown to work in the real world. Is there anything that can be done through type to make reading easier for dyslexics? Yes. Studies have shown that dyslexics read up to 27% faster when text lines are very short, up to 18 characters per line, compared to the 60-65 characters of standard text. Putting as much space as possible between letters helps dyslexics too. But a magic font that makes dyslexia go away? It doesn’t exist. It’s a nice idea, but it doesn’t work. Don’t buy into the hype.