Thomas Bohm has published a new paper called ‘Letter and symbol misrecognition in highly legible typefaces for general, children, dyslexic, visually impaired and ageing readers’.

Most typographers and typeface designers should have come across the widely seen issue of the misrecognition that can happen between the letters such as the lowercase el (l), the capital I (i) and the number 1 (one); because of the poor letter definition and legibility. The paper uses this issue as a starting point but further explores surrounding issues in this area.

Letter and symbol misrecognition 1

Figure 1 (from the paper).

Research highlighted in the paper indeed shows that people in testing misrecognise these letters. Other forms of letters can also be misrecognised such as stylistic variants and punctuation marks, and there are certain letter combinations which can cause misrecognition issues as well. As typographers and typeface designers we should ensure that people can read and understand what we are trying to say graphically, else they may decide to look away, or disengage with the typographic communication, or struggle to enter text correctly in an electronic environment, or in a more fatal cases: misread medication dosage instructions.

Letter and symbol misrecognition 2

Figure 2 (from the paper).

Letter and symbol misrecognition 3

Figure 2 (from the paper).

Illustration showing the confusion of the number 1 (one) and number 7 (seven) characters.

What issues do different types of people, and people of different age ranges experience, and how can letters be designed to help and include their requirements? Certain letter shape designs can help children around 6 years old to read. There has been a massive rise in the use of infant a’s in typefaces recently. 10% of the world’s population have dyslexia. 1 in 30 people in the UK have some kind of visual impairment. 28% of the world’s population between the years of 2000–2025 will be aged 45 and older. How are letters and symbols to be designed best for these people? The paper expands and explores these issues.

Letter and symbol misrecognition 4

Illustration showing someone confusing characters and symbols. 

Letter and symbol misrecognition 5

Illustration showing a person with dyslexia confusing letters.

Thanks to Thomas Bohm from User Design, Illustration and Typesetting who made all the illustrations and wrote this very interesting and informational article. The cover image was made by James T. Edmondson.

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