In 2008, during his final year at Utrecht School of the Arts, graphic design student Christian Boer came up with the idea for creating a typeface that was easier for people with dyslexia to read.
A dyslectic himself, Christian had read about the ways in which dyslectics perceive written letters, as three-dimensional characters where letters can rotate and interchange with one another, causing difficulty in distinguishing between characters like “b”, “q”, and “p”, or “v” and “w”.
“It was intended to help only myself at first”, recalls Christian. “I read about how dyslectics turn and exchange letters and I thought, “Yeah, I can change the form and I want to have a look to see if it works.”
Christian’s typeface, Dyslexie, alters the shape of the twenty-six letters of the western alphabet, making the bottom of the letter bolder, effectively anchoring them to the ground, or increasing openings or indentations to emphasise the difference between characters, even if rotated or interchanged.
He found that the new typeface worked, “very well” for him, but he also knew that dyslexia affects people differently and he was unsure whether it would help others. With this in mind he sought out some people to test the typeface on.
“I searched for eight different dyslectic people with heavier and lighter dyslexia, and I sent them the text without saying that it was the Dyslexie font and they all came back to me right away and said, “Yeah, I like the font, I want the font”, so I knew that it not only worked for me, but for all dyslectics.”
Although Christian admits that he wanted to keep Dyslexie for himself and the eight dyslectic people that he used for testing it on, he found that, “there was too much attention on it to keep it for myself!” He was approached by Renske de Leeuw, of the University of Twente, who asked if she could do some research into his creation.
Her study, completed in December 2010, found that there was a decrease in reading errors among dyslectics while using Christian’s typeface.
Following on from that research, Dyslexie is now commercially available in Holland, and Christian is currently in negotiations to have an English version available for the English market for September of this year, with the American market, “hopefully” to follow.
Christian acknowledges that people can be, “quite sceptical about it,” and insists that the best way is, “always if the dyslectic reads it by themselves; “ They notice what the difference is, and that’s the best result you’ll ever get.”