New Fontsmith Font for people with disabilities.

alchion's picture

On Microsoft’s typography section at
There is a discussion posted yesterday about the new Jason Smith (Fontsmith) font FS Mencap. Perhaps it is prematurely posted as there does not seem to include any visuals of the font and only contains information about it. As I find the actual visuals equally stimulating as the research behind the design I went searching for such with no luck. I tried, and with even less results than what was posted on the Microsoft site. If anyone has links to sites (with the glyphs/visuals) or were working on the project that would be greatly appreciated.
I would like to learn more about similar fonts designed for people with learning disabilites such as dyslexia, etc... I heard of a font called Read and have read a bit about it a while back, as well as Clearview. Is there any other designs with as much research behind them that anyone knows, and links to such articles?


Nick Shinn's picture

Involving readers in the design process is an interesting idea, and it bodes well that a top-notch, experienced type designer is producing this kind of typeface, rather than the usual neophytes.

William Berkson's picture

As Nick says, it is good that there is a top-notch designer involved in this. My concern from the description is that they seemed to have asked group with disabilities their opinions rather than testing how well they read different fonts.

I find that often people will say that a particular font is readable because it looks simple, like Helvetica, or because it looks good big in titles. But those qualities might not actually be more readable in text--it might be the opposite. The only way to know is not to ask people's opinions, but to actually comparatively test their reading speed and comprehension with different fonts.

alchion's picture

I hope Jason Smith hears of this discussion so we can his input (being he is the designer).
I will properly send him an email and invite him to participate in our discussion
if he has not already joined it by the end of the weekend.


Si_Daniels's picture

>Perhaps it is prematurely posted as there does not seem to include any visuals of the font and only contains information about it.

I posted it as instructed...

Contact: Jason Smith,

Embargoed until: 00.01 hours 10th April, 2008"

The press release came with a PDF which went into a lot of detail with pictures etc., unfortunately I can't easily post PDFs to the site without jumping through additional hoops.

joeclark's picture

The subject line of this thread is unhelpfully vague. If I’m totally blind, do I need a special typeface? If I’m missing a toe?

In any event, I have read all the claims about typefaces allegedly more compatible with dyslexia and learning disability and they’re all nonsense, as are the fonts themselves. There are a number of very high thresholds to overcome here:

  • Typeface must be recognizable as an actual professionally-designed typeface. We may now know what that means, but given the finished font, we know when it didn’t happen.
  • Typeface must work better than rationally-chosen existing fonts in user testing. This tends to be completely screwed up (Cf. Tiresias) and is hard to measure in any case (where “hard” simply means “expensive and involved”).
  • Entire project must conquer the hurdle that nobody but the commissioning organization is ever, at any time, going to use the resulting typeface. What are LD readers gonna do then?

Joe Clark

Nick Shinn's picture

nobody but the commissioning organization is ever, at any time, going to use the resulting typeface.

Let's see what the font looks like before assuming that.

However, for a name with mass appeal, Mencap might not be as good as something involving the word "schoolbook", which has a pretty good reputation in type circles. So the organization would have to supress some of its branding in having a typeface named after itself, and accept that there would be some resistance against using a face named Mencap in general publishing not specifically targeting those with disabilities, and choose a disingenuous name instead. But that may not be an issue in light of the role played by the UK government and that country's overbearing bureaucracy, which could result in a growing demand for faces such as this, in the public sphere.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Sii, could we get permissions from Jason to post the PDF here? I could add it to this thread or even a news release here.

Si_Daniels's picture

It's a press release so I see no reason why not - I'll forward, and cc Jason.

Cheers, Si

quadibloc's picture

I used Google to find the FontSmith site, and the face is visible there. It looks like a fairly conventional sans-serif face.

Interestingly enough, both the lower and upper case letters K have first one arm coming from the vertical bar, and then the second arm coming from the first arm. This may gladden the heart of another poster here who has a recent thread.

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