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  • 08.04.15

Can Cutting Letters In Half Help You Read Faster Online?

Designer Masato Nakada’s experimental website, Type Snap, allows users to create words and sentences using only half of letters. The result is surprisingly legible.

Visit the website Type Snap and you’ll find the all of the letters in the alphabet laid out side-by-side, with each letter split vertically down the middle. Periodically, the two sides–which are rendered in two different fonts–break apart from each other and spin in different directions before snapping back in line. You can split the letter in half completely by grabbing one of the halves with your cursor and dropping it into a new line, creating words and sentences from the truncated letters.

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It’s an oddly addicting game, and one that will likely remind designers of typography class assignments that require dissecting letterforms to better understand type. Designed by Los Angeles-based graphic designer Masato Nakada, the aim of Type Snap is to experiment with the limits of web-based type and to create a typeface that is as robust and dynamic as emojis, GIFs and other forms of visual communication online. It was only after Nakada started experimenting with the spliced type that he realized writing with halved letters was not only still legible, it might even allow for faster reading online.

“We have been using SMS abbreviations such as OMG, BRB or WTF from the beginning,” Nakada writes on his website. “That was my starting point, I wanted WTF to be read faster, more dynamic and more intimate. So I simply split letters in half. Not only does it increase its reading speed, but we can now pack more words and meaning without compromising its quantity.”

It’s hard to prove that Type Snap actually improves reading efficiency without proper user testing, but it is an interesting experiment on the boundaries of legibility. It’s reminiscent of the word scrambling meme that left the first and the last letters of words intact while mixing up the order of the letters in between. While researchers later called out the meme for being misleading (and the “study” that it was drawn from for being completely false), it ultimately demonstrated that people can still comprehend words even when they take on a slightly different form than expected.

Nakada based Type Snap two fonts from the ’90s: Dead History, which mashes together two existing typefaces, and Keedy Sans, a font that many consider to test the limits of legibility. He was also inspired by designer Eric Hu, who built an animated typeface by using an image carousel for each letter. “I built off of his idea and placed only a half a letter in a carousel box,” Nakada says in a phone interview. “Once that was built, I wanted all letters to be draggable and set in a grid.”

Nakada continues to expand the capabilities of Type Snap. He hopes to make the font it type-able soon (right now you can only create words by dragging), and he’s currently working on developing a function that would allow users to take a snapshot of the word they created so they can send it to people in the form of an animated GIF. As for the speed reading aspect of the type, Nakada tells me it was never his main intention for this project, but he’s excited by the possible applications. “Think about this implication for something like Twitter,” he writes on the site. “You can say more and still type the same amount of words. Wacky? Maybe, but the internet is a wacky place.”

About the author

Meg Miller is an associate editor at Co.Design covering art, technology, and design.

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