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"The OpenDyslexic font is designed to give 'gravity' to letters to prevent the characters rotating in readers' minds."
The Bold version has tiny little anchors hanging below each glyph.
There is no published peer-reviewed research to support the claim that this typeface makes any significant difference on reading performance.
Tom Phinney has written a good article on some of the recent 'fonts for dyslexics', including Dyslexie, whose basic concept is followed in the font described in the BBC article. He is rightly critical of misdiagnosis of the problem that the font makers claim to be solving, and of the absence, as Chris notes, of any scientific research to back up the claims.
Tom also has a follow-up blog post:
One of the points that Tom makes is that current scientific understanding of dyslexia is that it is a phonological deficit, i.e. a problem in the cognitive processing of language, and not a visual problem.
But I wonder why this one makes dyslexics think they can read better with it.
Well, the article records one dyslexic saying that he found it easy to read. Nice anecdotal evidence, but note that the same person commends the spacing of the font, so maybe the letter forms themselves are not providing the perceived benefit. It is more widely spaced than typical text fonts, which Kevin Larson would predict to improve reading for non-dyslexics too. That is just one of the factors for which no attempt has been made to control.
note that the same person commends the spacing of the font
Also noting there the "pq" setting in that sample...
So: I hear ya (hence my joke about anchors).
But why haven't past such efforts become so high-profile?
Oh, you know, someone slept with someone who knows somebody else's brother in law who once played golf with a news editor. :)
Actually, I think its because this one is really a technology story about making the font available on mobile devices.
I think this story, along with those around Dyslexie and ecofont, speak to general reader interest in quirky typographic news items, and the fact that the mainstream typographic community isn't interested, able or willing to promote their work in this way.
I managed to come across Hillier’s unpublished PhD thesis (2006). Topping out at ~250 pages I have not had time to read it all.
There are no data presented which speak to the statistical significance of his results. In the figures towards the end of the document there are some tables which report participants subjective responses from a series of Likert scales, as well as data concerning reading time and comprehension.
I could find no mention of participant demographic data.
Individual data is not reported.
I am not confidant that the materials are accurately represented.
From this document it is not possible to support, refute, or reproduce his results.
I have been unsuccessful in accessing the published article (through any database I have access to):
Hillier, R. (2008). Sylexiad. A typeface for the adult dyslexic reader. Journal of Writing in Creative Practice, 1(3), pp. 275-291.
It is also worth noting that the document I have appears to be missing its appendices.
[John Hudson] “One of the points that Tom makes is that current scientific understanding of dyslexia is that it is a phonological deficit, i.e. a problem in the cognitive processing of language, and not a visual problem.”
This isn’t entirely accurate. “Recent advances in understanding of the visual system have revived interest in the role of visual processing in the persisting inability to read fluently that characterises dyslexia.”
[quoted from the following]:
“Towards an understanding of the role of the ‘magnocellular advantage’ in fluent reading”
Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews
Volume 32, Issue 8, October 2008, Pages 1494–1506
Robin Laycock, Sheila G. Crewther
Reading disability is a relatively common developmental disorder, the aetiology of which is clouded by conflicting theoretical approaches and the heterogeneity of the subtypes found. Recent advances in understanding of the visual system have revived interest in the role of visual processing in the persisting inability to read fluently that characterises dyslexia. A new integrated model of visual processing based on primate single cell and human electrophysiology may provide such a framework, implicating the magnocellular pathway's role in activating and driving attentional mechanisms in higher order cortical regions. In particular, the recent introduction of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to create ‘transient lesions’ may provide causal evidence for dorsal stream feedforward/feedback involvement in rapid visual processing tasks. Such organization is argued to be crucial for the development of fluent reading.
The following distinguishes between ‘high-level’ cognitive or language deficits associated with developmental dyslexia and ‘low-level’ perceptual or neurological deficits.
“Dyslexia (neuropsychological). ”
Castles, A., M. T. McLean, G. and McArthur, G. (2010),
WIREs Cogn Sci, 1: 426–432. doi: 10.1002/wcs.16
In this article, we review research into the underlying deficits associated with the failure to learn to read normally, or developmental dyslexia. We focus on the heterogeneity within this broad category of disorder and on the relationship between the proposed deficits and the acquisition of specific kinds of reading skill. We also distinguish between ‘high-level’ cognitive or language deficits associated with developmental dyslexia and ‘low-level’ perceptual or neurological deficits. We conclude that the mixed and sometimes contradictory sets of findings associated with most of the proposed deficits reveal something important: that there is no single cause of developmental dyslexia and that it is likely that multiple causes interact in complex ways to impair reading acquisition.
A central issue in this hypothesis seems to be ‘visio-spatial resolution,’ which appears to be weak or diffuse in dyslexics. I suspect looking into the magnocellular deficit hypothesis (where the ‘low-level’ perceptual or neurological deficits seem to be based) is the way to go for those interested in type-design or typography-based remediation of dyslexia.
Google the words ‘dyslexia’ and ‘magnocellular deficit,’ for more.
…the fact that the mainstream typographic community isn't interested, able or willing to promote their work in this way.
Putting out news releases to the general media for your latest me-too typeface doesn’t result in much coverage.
However, I might well be promoting my next typeface as being dyslexic-friendly—apparently all I have to do is ﬁnd someone who says they have dyslexia to wax lyrical about it?
It was designed by Mr. Magoo.
For further reading:
Klein, R. & McMullen, P. (1999). Converging Methods for Understanding Reading and Dyslexia. Cambridge. MIT Press.
apparently all I have to do is ﬁnd someone who says they have dyslexia to wax lyrical about it?
No, that's not enough. It also has to look freaky.
Here is an example - Bottleneck of a typeface the letters of which should not tend to rotate when viewed.
Psychedelia HM is another option, and it's even free.