typo' asymmetry

tuesday, 12 april 2022

for the interested, this entry encapsulates the machinations and rationalizations that accompanied the development of the dyslexic fonts for e-readers (and my reading enjoyment in particular) as described on this site.

design

Typefaces such as OpenDyslexic address dyslexia by anchoring glyphs (with weighted strokes) to resist dyslexic rotation and reversal of the letter, along with unique shapes to reduce letter confusion. While effective, these specialized typefaces arguably lack the visual aesthetic we generally associate with typography.

Enter Unolexic (and Monolexic), a font based on the coding font Iosevka which approaches dyslexia and reading legibility from a different approach with..

  • monospaced cell width
  • legibility
  • double width characters
  • asymmetrical glyphs

albeit, with perhaps less effectiveness for certain dyslexic conditions—who benefit from the odd thickened strokes to anchor the letters. For the remainder of us and those even without a hint of dyslexia, Mono/Unolexic may be the ticket to a more legible and readable font—which also happens to be a beautiful typeface with hints of Grotesk heritage.

monospace

cell width avoids the letter density of proportional fonts. Proportional letter spacing and kerning produce beautifully dense letter sequences which can be difficult for the visually impaired and dyslexic.

Monospaced fonts provide a uniform reading/visual cadence and when used with 1 1/2 (or more) line spacing promote ease of horizontal tracking.

The vertical columnar alignment of monospaced text also renders a page more visually organized at a glance—echoing a simple pattern to our visual cortex.

legibility

outside of dyslexic adjustments—and a few distinctive deviations, see unique to—the bulk of the Mono/Unolexic character set relies on the glyph shapes of the Atkinson Hyperlegible Font—a font designed to maximize character recognition and readability—capitalizing on its modern Grotesk sans serif forms for the visually impaired.

Dyslexic fonts need not lack the appeal of clean geometric strokes.

double width glyphs

are unique to Mono/Unolexic, made to improve character recognition and word legibility. In particular..

  • the Space character for distinct (and uniform) word separation
  • the Emdash (made more distinct from Dash) and Ellipsis for clarity and emphasis
  • ligatures for readability (which are otherwise overly compressed within a single monospaced cell)

asymmetric glyphs

mirroring of the lower case glyph sets b d p q and n u are common properties of beautiful typefaces, especially the classic Grotesk fonts.

Unfortunately, dyslexia can misread the multiple use of common shapes—perceiving a glyph in a rotated or reversed orientation and mistaken for another letter. Choosing distinctly different shapes for these commonly mirrored glyphs improve word recognition, especially when these letters are combined within the same word—it is a subtle but noticeable benefit.

the road

from monolexic to Unolexic saw several asymmetric glyph set iterations—while a visual improvement for the author, may be less so for a particular dyslexic condition (hence, the trail of available Monolexic font sets).

n u

The lower case n u glyph set with the..

  • familiar straight n
  • highly uncommon but symmetric toothless-rounded u

remains common to all the Mono/Unolexic font sets.

Its obvious clarity and beauty in the common “un” pairing surprises me that this is not a more frequent glyph shape pairing amongst typographic designers. (The toothed u arguably has the visual toothed anchor point—though, i feel the toothless-rounded shape’s beautiful distinctiveness more than compensates.)

b d p q

the lower case b d p q glyph set has a more storied history—with the distinctly unique lower case hook-tailed q of the Atkinson Hyperlegible Font being the only permanent fixture, avoiding the dyslexic pitfall of most other typefaces.

The progression of lower case glyph choices precluded (with one exception) the use of serifed variants and evolved as visual familiarity with each typeface invited further exploration of alternate asymmetric glyph combinations..

  • the toothless-corner b which retains a similar shape to its more familiar toothed variant anchored the early glyph set combinations
  • the tailed d harboured a pleasing repetition of the vertical stroke of the lower case l—paired with the eared (serifless) p
  • subsequent return to the toothed-serifless d was paired with the serifed p
  • finally, adopting the toothless-rounded b allowed the (serifless) earless-corner p for maximal font set air (eliminating serifed corner bumps)

producing the following font set combinations..

iteration b d p q
Monolexic toothless-corner tailed eared hook-tailed
Monolexic toothless-corner toothed-serifless serifed hook-tailed
Monolexic
Unolexic
toothless-rounded toothed-serifless earless-corner hook-tailed

The tailed d and serifed p ultimately were replaced for the increased adjacent character air of the toothed-serifless d and earless-corner p. The return to the toothed-serifless d for the high frequency letter re-aligned itself with the Atkinson Hyperlegible Font.

The toothless-rounded b was inspired by the Universal Grotesk font and worked out (IMO) surprising well, much like the toothless-rounded u. Despite the radical departure from its more familiar toothed glyph shape, it adds a unique geometric flair further distinguishing the typeface. YMMV.

unique to

several other deviations from the Atkinson Hyperlegible Font set distinguish the Mono/Unolexic fonts. Notably the capital letters I J Q and the descending lower case f.

capital i j q

First and foremost, these fonts are available in either serifed or serifless capital I. Many will prefer the serifed capital I for its distinct recognition. (i am biased towards serifless as a matter of my geometric leanings.)

The descending capital J and detached bent-tail capital Q further distinguish these fonts. Along with their uniquely added flair, these glyphs stand out better within the monospaced cell width with a cleaner and more open presentation.

descending f

is unique to Unolexic—uncommon for a non-italic glyph—and adds the final flair to the font. Its descender aids in legibility but perhaps as importantly, adds an informal “look” to the font—not obtrusively (more like an accent) as the letter is a low frequency letter.

Like many things, familiarity breeds acceptance. A former aversion to descenders has now become an aesthetically pleasing alternative. Monolexic remains the more formal typeface. Unolexic its more relaxed cousin.

YMMV. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

elementary

moral of the story: never say you’re done. Enter elementary.

elementary doesn’t inherit the lexic family postfix as its single-storey lower case a is less distinct (from o and to a lesser extent the g and d for the visually impaired) from its more universally recognizable double-storey variant—which the Atkinson Hyperlegible and dyslexic fonts adopt for maximum legibility. Its name instead is derived from the primary or elementary school font which introduces the single-storey lower case a and g glyphs as easier to print letters in introductory reading and writing curriculums.

Why this typeface variant? It is counter-intuitive but at small font sizes it actually (to my eyes) works, albeit in a different manner than expected. The high frequency letters a e and s with their crossing mid-x-height stroke make certain words (and page) look ever so subtly denser—due to the frequency of these bisected x-height cells. The single-storey glyph lessens this—countering the e’s frequency—with its open outer cell width outline. What is lost perhaps in glyph distinctiveness is gained in more “airiness”.

Hence, the trio of fonts at the bottom of the list are now in my rotation based on my preferred lower case b d p (with hook-tailed q) dyslexic glyph set for maximal side bearing air..

iteration b d p f a
Monolexic corner tailed eared flat double
Monolexic corner serifless serifed flat double
Monolexic rounded serifless corner flat double
Unolexic rounded serifless corner extended double
elementary rounded serifless corner flat single

As such, fonts enhance the character of the material being read or displayed. elementary adds its playful voice to the formal and informal tone of Monolexic and Unolexic—providing a good font selection for the material i consume.

In the end, it comes down to aesthetic and vision. Dyslexic conditions may mandate the more distinctive double-storey glyph—some may continue to prefer the earlier b d p glyph variant combinations. With my eyesight (despite needing reading glasses) and 300PPI e-ink displays, i have been finding elementary a very nice font to read with—made all the more familiar, perhaps, by those critical formative years learning to read and print with those single-storey glyphs. As always, YMMV.

dyslexic ranking

in terms of dyslexic ranking or readability from best to less we now have..

iteration b d p f a
Unolexic rounded serifless corner extended double
Monolexic rounded serifless corner flat double
elementary rounded serifless corner flat single

Those with mild or no dyslexia have the luxury of choosing a font which suits the material they are reading, including earlier typeface variants.

✱  ✱  ✱

the font files may be found here.

»»  unolexic

comment ?