Christian Boer designs typeface
for readers with dyslexia

| 105 comments

Istanbul Design Biennial 2014: a typeface created specifically for dyslexic people by Dutch designer Christian Boer is on show at this year's Istanbul Design Biennial (+ slideshow).

Dyslexie typeface by Christian Boer

Although it looks like a traditional typeface, Dyslexie by Christian Boer is designed specifically for people with dyslexia – a neurological disorder that causes a disconnect between language and visual processing making it difficult for the brain to process text. Dyslexia is estimated to affect 10 per cent of the world's population, according to UK charity Dyslexia Action.



"When they're reading, people with dyslexia often unconsciously switch, rotate and mirror letters in their minds," said Boer, who is dyslexic himself.

Dyslexie typeface by Christian Boer

"Traditional typefaces make this worse, because they base some letter designs on others, inadvertently creating 'twin letters' for people with dyslexia."

Dyslexie typeface by Christian Boer
Click for larger image

The 26 letters in the Roman alphabet are commonly derived from a set of vertical, horizontal, diagonal and rounded strokes.

Dyslexie typeface by Christian Boer

These abstract forms are usually replicated for neatness and consistency across a typeface. This means the letters become more similar, making it harder for dyslexics to distinguish between them.

For example in Swiss typeface Helvetica, the letter "n" is used upside down as a "u", "d" is a back to front "b", and "q" is a mirrored "p".

Dyslexie typeface by Christian Boer

In Boer's typeface, the letters are designed with heavier bottom portions to prevent the reader's mind from turning them upside down.

Lengthened ascenders and descenders – the portions of the characters that stretch beyond the two main horizontal guides – also makes them easier to tell apart.

Letters that usually appear similar are subtly italicised and have added tails where possible, so they no longer look alike and pose less risk of the reader mirroring them.

Boer has also added larger spaces between letters and words, as well as bold capitals and punctuation marks so the start and end of sentences can be better differentiated.

Dyslexie typeface by Christian Boer

"By changing the shape of the characters so that each is distinctly unique, the letters will no longer match one another when rotated, flipped or mirrored," Boer said. "Bolder capitals and punctuation will ensure that users don't accidentally read into the beginning of the next sentence."

Boer first designed the typeface in 2008 and presented it during a TED talk in 2011. The project is currently on display for the second Istanbul Design Biennial, which continues until 14 December.

  • tstev

    So where is the font to load it?

  • Steve

    Oh dear, I’m afraid you’re misinformed here. As highlighted, there are many forms and aspects to dyslexia and the visual aspects are very much part of it. Please go and observe a specialist opticians in this field, I have when testing both of my children, and it’s fascinating.

  • Diana Ped

    Oh my gosh, I love it! Now if I can only learn to read other people’s handwriting better…

  • VPH

    My grandson and granddaughter have dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia. It is rough trying to help them through school.

    My grandson is 12 and reads at a fourth-grade level, slowly. Any words of wisdom? They both have “accommodations” at school, but we battle DAILY with teachers!

  • CSweet6

    I used to do the colored plastic trick in school. I was told it wasn’t allowed because it was a distraction to other students in class. SMH I unfortunately have both of these. I find that stress makes it worse.

    Reading out loud as a child was awful. It’s not that I couldn’t see or understand the words (I have an above average vocabulary for my age), it’s just that I couldn’t get the letters in and two or three syllable words to stay in place long enough to sound the damn things out. :(

    • sensorsweep

      It’s so tough dealing with tactless teachers/administrators. I wonder if they actually believed that you were somehow benefiting from some sort of “unfair advantage” by just trying to level the playing field.

      I remember having an accessibility advocate/administrator telling me that “sometimes students just fail” after an encounter with an almost vindictive professor who seemed to go out of his way to make the tests not reflect the classwork, and almost be the antithesis of my psych-ed assessment recommendations. Argh.

      Audiobooks are wonderful though.

  • Natasha

    Actually, you need glasses.

  • Ryan Y.

    It’s a neat idea and wouldn’t be too hard to implement. Hope many adopt it!

  • Kattitude65

    For me, the problem is in transposing numbers, and more rarely, letters. The coloured transparency sheet over a piece of paper helps somewhat. It’s inexpensive to try.

    Yellow seemed to work best for me at crisping up numbers. I also bump up the size of fonts, usually to 14 point. We tend to read words as a whole, not letter by letter, and in working with numbers, which I still do quite frequently, I must make a conscious effort to see each individual number… Say, the number 4162, as 4-1-6-2.

    A lot of people seem to read that (and pronounce it) as 41-62, which I find causes me great difficulty and increases the likelihood of transposition of numbers.

    In adding columns of figures, my professor taught me to use an index card under each line if necessary. A blank index card visually separates one line from the next so the block doesn’t “grey out” or wiggle.

    In going back to proofread, I work from the bottom once, and from the top once. It’s extra work, but as a trustee, I work with large numbers and columns of figures where accuracy is essential.

    If I have to add a column of say, thirty discrete numbers (like in a check register), I’ll use an index card in one hand to separate each line, and do the data entry with my other hand. Once I have a total, I’ll go back and add again from the bottom to the top (less likely to transpose the same set of numbers twice).

    If the numbers agree, I’m good. If not, I start checking my calculator printer tape for where a transposition might have occurred. A printing calculator is invaluable for that sort of thing, although I’m fully capable of doing the math in my head.

    But I like the paper printout to check against. So glad my professor taught me the few extra tricks it takes to be successful. Of course, there are many flavours of dyslexia and dyscalculia, so what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another.

    For my dad, the Dragon Naturally Speaking computer programs were a lifesaver, where I found them an annoyance. Everyone’s different. Hope that helps some!

  • Dub Scrib

    Another ‘dyslexia font’ with no research evidence? Fine if it helps some people but it’s not “revolutionary” (as Boer claims on his website).

    It’s no better than OpenDyslexia and it doesn’t look as good as Lexia Readable or Read Regular.

    Sylexiad Sans looks okay and has some research behind it. Sassoon Sans was developed to teach kids to write and can work for dyslexics too – it’s probably the most refined font of this ‘genre’.

  • Lydia

    This seems to be a very interesting and innovative tool that could have potential reading benefits to people with Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome.

    This is a completely separate difficulty to dyslexia but causes the symptoms where the text appears to move around the page. Importantly (and what the article seems to have completely failed to mention) is that dyslexia is difficulty with literacy caused by underlying difficulties with things like phonological awareness, speed of processing and short-term memory. It has nothing to do with visual processing.

    It is true that some people with dyslexia can also have Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome in addition (I have an official diagnosis of both things), but equally both things can occur in isolation too.

    Scotopic sensitivity can already be supported quite effectively already using colour filters, papers, glasses, or event by playing with the colours on your monitor.

    I feel it is important to acknowledge that the issue around Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome are not the same and the underlying difficulties that cause dyslexia, and I therefore question how suitable it is to publicise this tool as something that supports people with dyslexia.

  • Jess

    I disagree with people calling this as a cure?! Dyslexia doesn’t need a cure. It’s just another way to understand information.

    The point is 10% of the population translate information differently, it just so happens the other 90% developed a society that uses writing as it’s main form of communication.

    If the 10% of dyslexic community had devolved the foundations of learning it would be very different and then the 90% of people which are ‘normal’ would be the ones needing a ‘cure’!

    I may struggle with my p d b 9 and e 5, and even my u and n… You just adapt. Personally, this text doesn’t help me.

  • JKM

    How can I obtain this typeface for both my iMac and PC at work?

  • Dom
  • Lydia

    Dear School Psychologist, thank you for being the one person to highlight why this article is so dangerously misleading. You are correct, dyslexia in fact is caused by difficulties with things like phonological awareness and short-term memory.

    The visual processing difficulties described above are symptoms of Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome. I think people are confused because both things can occur together.

    I have a diagnosis of both things myself. They are NOT the same thing and it’s misleading to use them interchangeably. A font such as this can never address the true underlaying difficulties of dyslexia, though I can see it may support people with Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome.

    I guess the correct next step would be for the designer to run a study to test his invention. Then he would actually have some research-based evidence to support his claim… Something the article has completely ignored. Alternatively, he could sell it for a lot of money to all those people this brings hope to.

    • Dyslexia is a processing disability, a vast majority of dyslexic readers share disabilities that manifest themselves visually (scotopic sensitivity disorder) as well as in some cases, motor coordination (dyspaxia) amongst others. So YES, a more readable typeface will help aid a DYSLEXIC READER that has visual processing issues also; which if you would like to delve into, is a broad majority but to varying degrees.

      To completely PIE OFF a visual processing aid because it ‘will not actually do anything to address the core deficits of dyslexia, would be very narrow minded.

      Research driven typefaces have been created – http://www.jg-taylor.com/index…Myself, Dr.Robert Hillier and Natascha Frensch are just a few designers in addition to Boer that have committed ourselves to working alongside dyslexic readers and individuals with reading difficulties. By imploring young designers such as myself to think of the consequences of ‘bad’ design, would be a stepping stone in the right direction.

      However, to find one typeface as a fix-all solution is not practical. Coupling great design that takes into account: Colour combination, type weight / style, line spacing, type setting and orthography would be far more beneficial. An even greater solution would be to use pictograms or logo-graphic based words which are utilized in the early stages of reading development in infants (logo-grahic phase). The most efficient way-finding systems and User Interface Platforms rely on easy-to-use navigation through these means.

      To suggest that we are here to reap financial reward over those who are in need of help is deeply discomforting for me. Perhaps you should take a look at your contributions to the dyslexic community first. I amongst others require driven research from volunteers both dyslexic and non-dyslexic. Contribution is a far greater weapon than adversity.

      Companies like GoLexia are at the fore-front of this battle. http://www.golexia.com take a look for yourself.

  • Louise

    This has already been done. Check out Sassoon font: http://www.sassoonfont.co.uk/fonts/sas/WhySassoon1.3.pdf

  • Aubrey

    If you read below I mentioned that it is ADULTS I was referring to not kids.

  • Bastet

    I do not have dyslexia, however I am approaching 50. I use reading glasses, but still end up guessing what something says at times. Usually in restaurants! I like this font and really feel it would help those of us with other vision issues.

  • Wendy

    My 8 year old son was diagnosed with a deep dyslexia earlier this year and as I have been reading the comments below I am very confused. As far as I know you don’t get “rid of” dyslexia. My son will always have it. It is a spectrum and that means it is different for everyone, with different outcomes. I am so happy for all of you who have been able to thrive and read or spell with help or reading everyday. I am also sad, for all the judgement of “lazy” dyslexics. Just because something works for one person, doesn’t mean it works for all. My son reads every day, and struggles every day and his life will always be up and down. I just want him to know how smart he is and that in school, education is based on the “average” learner and NOT for different learners.

  • Dyslexia is a processing disability, a vast majority of dyslexic readers share disabilities that manifest themselves visually (scotopic sensitivity disorder) as well as in some cases, motor coordination (dyspaxia) amongst others. So YES, a more readable typeface will help aid a DYSLEXIC READER that has visual processing issues also; which if you would like to delve into, is a broad majority but to varying degrees.

    To completely PIE OFF a visual processing aid because it ‘will not actually do anything to address the core deficits of dyslexia, would be very narrow minded.

    Research driven typefaces have been created – http://www.jg-taylor.com/index.php/portfolio/dyslexia-friendly-typeface/ Myself, Dr.Robert Hillier and Natascha Frensch are just a few designers in addition to Boer that have committed ourselves to working alongside dyslexic readers and individuals with reading difficulties. By imploring young designers such as myself to think of the consequences of ‘bad’ design, would be a stepping stone in the right direction.

    However, to find one typeface as a fix-all solution is not practical. Coupling great design that takes into account: Colour combination, type weight / style, line spacing, type setting and orthography would be far more beneficial. An even greater solution would be to use pictograms or logo-graphic based words which are utilized in the early stages of reading development in infants (logo-grahic phase).

    The most efficient way-finding systems and User Interface Platforms rely on easy-to-use navigation through these means.

    Should you find typefaces like the above useful then why not contribute to the dyslexic community. I amongst others require driven research from volunteers both dyslexic and non-dyslexic. Contribution is a far greater weapon than adversity.

    Companies like GoLexia are at the fore-front of this battle. http://www.golexia.com take a look for yourself.

  • The link is in the second paragraph: http://www.dyslexiefont.com/