Sylexiad: How it was Designed

By Robert Hillier.

Published by The International Journal of Visual Design

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

The paper will consider a series of typeface legibility and readability studies devised by the author that have resulted in the creation of Sylexiad, a typeface developed and designed for use by adult dyslexic readers. Sylexiad was developed by means of comparative typeface investigations involving a series of formative and summative small-scale tests that accommodated two established word recognition models—word shape and parallel letter recognition. This novel method of measuring legibility and readability is called developmental typeface testing and helped to facilitate the design of the font. The findings of developmental typeface testing identified the typographic characteristics adult dyslexic and non-dyslexic readers preferred and why. For the majority of non-dyslexic readers tested, it was the combination of serif-style, lowercase forms, large x-heights, medium weight, variable strokes and normal inter-word spacing that was preferred. The non-dyslexic readers also favoured the form of Times New Roman. Conversely, 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. The dyslexic readers also favoured the form of Serif Sylexiad. The design and development of Sylexiad has raised issues that both confirm and contradict current typographic principles of legibility. Most notably, from a dyslexic perspective, the word shape model has been challenged. The outcomes and issues that have been identified as a result of the creation of Sylexiad form a key part of the paper.

Keywords: Developmental Typeface Testing, Word Recognition, Dine Typeface, Sylexiad Typeface, Dyslexia, Adult Dyslexic Reader, Legibility, Readability, Typeface Design, Parallel Letter Recognition, Word Shape

The International Journal of Visual Design, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp.65-73. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 460.860KB).

Dr. Robert Hillier

Senior Lecturer, Communication Design, Norwich University College of the Arts, Norwich, Norfolk, UK

Dr. Robert Hillier is a Senior Lecturer at Norwich University College of the Arts. Hillier designed and developed the Sylexiad range of fonts for adult dyslexic readers as part of his doctoral research. He has presented his research findings at numerous design institutions and international conferences including the Association Typographique Internationale (ATypI) Conference, Reykjavik, Iceland (2011) and the Sixth International Conference on Design Principles and Practices Conference, University of California, Los Angeles, USA (2012). Sylexiad has been featured in publications including Communication Arts, Baseline, Slanted, Novum, Etapes, Ultrabold and the Journal of Writing in Creative Practice. A chapter about the typeface is featured in the book Supporting Dyslexic Adults in Higher Education and the Workplace, Wiley Blackwell (2012). Sylexiad was included as part of the NEVERODDOREVEN exhibition at The Serpentine Gallery, London, UK (2007). His solo exhibitions include List Landscapes at The Norwich Arts Centre, Norwich, UK (2010) and Typologies: Making Lists, Marking Time (part of the Critical Tensions, Tenth Annual St. Bride Library Conference), St. Bride Foundation, London, UK (2011). Hillier has also exhibited work in the USA, Germany and South Korea and has won many information book design awards.