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BEHIND THE SCENES · March 7, 2011

Minds for Typography

Several weeks ago, David Jonathan Ross and I spoke on a panel at the cherished Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square. Following a screening of the documentary Helvetica, we talked about our experiences as typeface designers. The event was coordinated by GLIMPSE journal, a captivating, beautifully designed publication that examines the art and science of seeing.

We were privileged to share the stage with Dr. Matthew Schneps, Director of the Lab for Visual Learning at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who has been investigating the strengths that people with dyslexia have in processing visual information. His research about dyslexic readers being more sensitive to the subtleties of typographic design really caught our attention. It was a fascinating evening, not just for the audience but for us panelists as well! Check out his article Dyslexia: A Mind for Typography in the Text issue of GLIMPSE (also featuring a wonderful article by Juliet Shen on designing a typeface for an indigenous tribe. Click on the image on the left for a preview).

Dr. Schneps was kind enough to invite us all to his offices recently and participate in his experiments. Among them was a test to see how quickly we could perceive typographic inconsistencies, such as baseline shifts. For another, a state-of-the-art eye tracker was used to help interpret how we perceived texts and images. It was an enlightening day where we made great connections, well worth the many feet of snow we slogged through to get there. We look forward to the collaboration of science and typography in the future!

David (center, with back facing) takes part in the experiment with Dr. Schneps (right) and his assistant Esben (left).


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