Liveblogging a presentation at TypeTech, ATypI Brighton 2007 (q.v.)

Tries to distinguish between technical and artistic work, like Pierre di Sciullio’s. On the other hand, there’s historical research, and University of Reading is doing historical research on books for children. My project is in developing a font for children with low vision. It’s in the domain of universal design, so as not to exclude specific groups of users.

Legibility includes two things: Sensorial, like the intake of information through the eyes, and the cognitive. My project is focussed on the sensorial component. It’s a relatively uncultivated research domain.

There’s a distinction between type design and research. But the type practice and experimental researchers barely cooperate. For example, Aries Arditi, but the problem I think he has is he creates his own fonts and he’s only explaining his results. So I will cite from his study “Serifs and font legibility”: “We have studied only a single font of our own parametric design,” but another font from an experienced designer might have more impact.

Children with low vision: With problems in the sensory component, not dyslexia. And they have difficulties with the Dutch language. We’re interested in beginning readers from ages five to eight.

(Shows huge list of possible diagnoses, which can be grouped into central- and peripheral-visual-field loss.) A lot of research has already been done on adults with reading problems. But there’s almost none on children. Adults are already familiar with the reading process, unlike children.

In other research, decoding of words, deciphering of visual patterns, and recognition of letters is the biggest problem for children with low vision. This means lower reading speed, which can result in cognitive problems later on. We need more input at how visual input can be improved at the level of letters and words. Children aren’t confident yet with the abstract forms used in reading, making it possible to experiment with the skeletons of letters.

To design the font: Take into account the individuality of the language, the exiting research, and the reading difficulties of children with spatial visual problem. Some children with visual lag have less stimulation in different brain areas, making them subject to effects like “reversion” of letters.

There’s already been research into fonts for low vision, like Tiresias. But the target group is the elderly or adults. Rosemary Sassoon created a font othat was easier to read, as did Natascha Frensch (Read Regular) and Sally Kessel (Grover).

Designers want to improve legibility by distinguishing forms and by extending descenders and ascenders. But we don’t read just by the images of word shapes. (Shows the Cambridge University reversed-letters meme.) Some other researchers compared images to words and found that words are always rectangular with longer width than height.

But people are always saying that a font for children should always be free of confusion or hesitation. The scientific knowledge of all those studies is not taken into account enough. But that’s also because typographers and scientists do not work together.

“A reformed alphabet will find no acceptance when it requires a higher degree of effort in order to read.” Like the Shaw alphabet, Quickscript by Kingsley Read, International Teaching Alphabet.

There is no specific font for children of low vision. Vision-impaired children can have visual illusions caused by the stripe patterns of lines of text.

Studied the influence of typographic adjustments for children. The font would be merely a tool for assisting reading, not a solution. And maybe it might be applicable to younger readers with reading problems and maybe the elderly. Designing one font can be used to determine if there any specific problems and if any of those dominate over any others.

She had a low-vision test group (no cognitive lag) and controls (age-matched beginning readers with or without reading problems). She used only two fonts plus five variations. TheSerif and Gill Sans. The basic parts are not that important, but the influence of their variations is.

Helvetica or Arial is the most commonly used font. But schools are seeing reading and writing as one activity instead of two. (Contacted publishers. One uses Gill, another Schulbuch by Just van Rossum. Most use one-storeyed a and g because they think it makes it easier to step from writing to reading. But they also use Helvetica and Arial, and Warnock Pro for stories.)

Variations: Size of x-height, ascenders, descenders. Then relative width, including spacing and also widening the letters. Weight. Contrast (including unconventional, like very thick vertical of d). Introduce distinguishing forms (changing shape of bowl of d, angled crossbar of e).

Two rounds of research: First with small differences, second with large. Do subtle distinctions already make a difference? Use nonwords, to avoid context effects and the complexity of words. Dutch has a transparent alphabet, English an opaque one. There’s a nearly-perfect 1:1 correspondence between letter or letter pair and pronunciation in Dutch.

Variables: Level of children, letter combination, confusion matrix (what letters are confusable with others?), same number of letters per experiment. In the confusion matrix, included findings by educators.

Legibility will be measured as processing time. With long word followed by short word, it may be difficult to remember the longer word. But by adding 100 ms of blank time between them, it could be easier. (Shows a Flash simulation.) Hopes there is a correlation between testing fonts on screen and on paper, since they can’t test on paper.

Independent variable: Different fonts. Dependent variable: CSOA (critical stimulus onset asymmetry) of the different fonts. (What’s being measured is how fast the children can recognize the nonword.)

(Aaand… that’s it! No results yet. Lots of Q&A, many from me, all untranscribed.)

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2007.09.12 11:48. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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