Quick Facts about Dyslexia Font and Styles:
Below is a look at some of the major fonts developed for dyslexics, why they were developed, how they are supposed to work, and what the research (if any) has shown about them thus far.
Created by the Dutch, dyslexic, graphic designer Christian Boer in 2008 after difficulty studying for a final exam while at university. He aimed to create a font that would stop the letters from looking like they were spinning or moving.
The Dyslexie Font
Unique Font Characteristics:
A masters thesis by Renske de Leeuw of the University of
Dyslexie had no effect on reading speed but found an overall reduction
in reading errors. Dyslexie was compared only against Arial and the sample size for the study was just 43, including 21 dyslexic readers. Though often cited by the design studio, the study is essentially neutral on the font's benefit. Perhaps they think people don't actually read it.
OpenDyslexic was created by American Abelardo Gonzalez and released as a free and open source font in 2011. He said he was motivated by the fact that other similar fonts (read: Dyslexie) were unaffordable.
Similarities with the Dyslexie font resulted in some nasty emails from Dyslexie creator Christian Boer, but the font remains free and open source.
The OpenDyslexic Font is Definitely Similar to Dyslexie
Unique Font Characteristics
OpenDyslexia website itself ernestly notes that there have been no
formal studies conducted on OpenDyslexic while pointing out that there
exist studies on font features that have been incorporated into the font
such as extra space between letters.
This dyslexia font was created by the designer of Dyslexie, Christian Boer. It's not clear why he created a second font, though the cost is apparently less, so it may have been to compete with the cheaper Open Dyslexic, but it aims to reduce the symmetry between letters, making them easier to distinguish.
Like Dyslexie, the base of each letter is heavier than most other fonts, helping to orient the letter correctly. A sample sentence is below.
Gill Dyslexic Sample
Created by Natascha Frensch at the Royal College of Art in London, this dyslexia font avoids symmetrical mirroring much like Gill Dyslexic. It is not open source yet and apparently not for sale.
At least one publisher is using it, but it's unclear how to go about getting the font. There is an e-mail address at her website if you want more information.
Read Regular is a Clean, Arial Like Font
Each character is designed to stand on its own and work together with its previous or next character. Ascenders (bdfhkl) and descenders (gjpqy) are longer than most fonts to ensure distinction. Spacing within the o, e, a and u is enhanced and the openings in e and g are kept from visually closing in.
I was unable to find any reference to research conducted on the font.
Designed by Keith Bates at K-Type and available for purchase at their website, Lexia Readable was designed as a more mature Comic Sans font, suitable for older readers (i.e. not just comic books). It was designed to be more legible at font sizes as small as 8 points.
The Lexia Readable Typeface is Airy and Open
The Regular and Bold weights are free for use without a license by individuals, educational and charitable organizations. For pay, licensed packages are also available
Long ascenders and descenders combine with generous letter spacing and asymmetrical lowercase b and d to help distinguish letters - features seen in Dyslexie and OpenDyslexic. No research was found to have been conducted on the font.
Sylexiad is actually a collection of fonts designed by Dr. Robert Hillier, a Senior Lecturer at Norwich University College of Arts and sold at his website where he describes it as an 'ongoing design investigation'.
His PhD dissertation was conducted on the font, though focused mainly on reader preferences rather than reading speed or accuracy. Among his conclusions was that:
" for the majority of dyslexic readers tested it was the combination of
handwritten style, uppercase forms, long ascenders and descenders, light
weight, uniform strokes, perpendicular design and generous inter-word
spacing that was preferred."
Sylexiad Sans Serif Font is Lighter Weight than Some Other Dyslexia Font
My own education in researching dyslexia font has lead me to the conclusion that fonts really don't matter much, so long as they are clean (sans serif) and have generous spacing between letters and words, but this is as true for dyslexics as efficient readers.
But by all means experiment with different fonts. Some people have been literally brought to tears by the freedom a new font provided but these are anecdotal accounts and probably exceptional circumstances.
There is no hard research
demonstrating improved reading speed or comprehension for dyslexics from any font.
A lot of good intent and effort went into the creation of the fonts and the media has given them a lot of gab but something has been missing from the whole discussion: Science.
The cutting edge of dyslexia research is converging on the fact that dyslexia results from inefficient processing of words in the brain— the way that letters and words are manipulated, stored and retrieved.
How could a font result in new global patterns of neural processing? If you understand this limitation, fonts are almost a non-starter.
Much of the rational behind the fonts is actually based on myths about dyslexia—that dyslexia is a visual problem, wherein readers reverse letters or spin them around or can't distinguish one letter from the next. This is not the case for most dyslexics, their problem lies in discriminating sounds, being able to manipulate phonemes, lack of short term memory and inability to remain focused.
For another take on the shortcomings of dyslexia fonts, here is an interesting article written by a font expert.
General Dyslexia Information Styling Tips
Things to Do:
Things to Avoid
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Beauty Brunette Model Reading Book: © Alexey Kuznetsov | Dreamstime
Pencils and Letters: © Chad Mcdermott | Dreamstime.com