By weighing down the characters and distorting similar letters, this new typeface pins words firmly to the page
Watching letters float and twist across a page, flipping and jumbling with gymnastic abandon, can be a daily frustration for readers with dyslexia. But the restless characters might soon be tamed thanks to a new font.
“When they’re reading, people with dyslexia often unconsciously switch, rotate and mirror letters in their minds,” says Boer, who is dyslexic himself. “Traditional typefaces make this worse, because they base some letter designs on others, inadvertently creating ‘twin letters’ for people with dyslexia.”
To counteract this tendency, Boer has introduced a number of tweaks. First, the letters are weighted towards the bottom, as if the bulk of each character’s body has slumped downwards under accelerated gravitational pressure. This sets a heavy baseline, which makes it harder for the letters to be flipped upside down – and gives the font the look of a chubby-ankled cousin of Comic Sans.
This lowered centre of gravity is joined by specific alterations to differentiate similar letters. In many fonts, the d is the same as a b is the same as a p is the same as a q – a simple hoop on a stick, variously mirrored and rotated to form four different characters. Boer’s typeface distorts each letter, slanting the extenders and descenders and enlarging the openings to make them harder to confuse, in a process of careful anatomical refinement.
Other similar looking letters are given different heights and their proportions slightly deformed. The valleys of the v, w and y are all set at subtly different levels, while the c is prised open more than usual to make it less similar to an o. Elsewhere, tails are lengthened and the space between letters is increased to counteract the common crowding effect, while capital letters and punctuation are bolded, making it easier to spot where one sentence ends and a new one begins.