Things we care about.
How one font is changing the world
Inclusivity is often about the small, simple but meaningful changes: like the font you’re reading right now.
1 in 10 of us have dyslexia - that’s roughly 6.3 million people in the UK alone, including substantial numbers who remain undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Each of those people will have subtly different symptoms and needs, but they all share at least some experience of a world which isn’t built with them in mind.
From reading to problem-solving, dyslexia can present a huge range of challenges. But with a bit of inclusive thinking, we can help make life a little bit easier for everyone.
That’s why we use the Lexend font across the Fox + Hare website - including for this blog post. It’s designed to reduce visual stress and increase reading speed and comprehension: a small change in how we communicate, but one which can make a huge difference, particularly for people with dyslexia.
Added to Google’s collection of digital fonts in 2019, Lexend in fact dates back to 1999 and the work of educational therapist Bonnie Shaver-Troup. Her research found that changes to letter designs and spacing can help with reading and comprehension: a discovery with particularly important implications for people with dyslexia.
Shaver-Troup worked with designers to create a font which prioritised readability, based on the findings from her research. The first version of Lexend was published in 2004, then refined and perfected over the next 15 years.
So why’s Lexend so good when it comes to readability? There are a number of specific qualities which set it apart:
- Wider spacing than other fonts, reducing the visual clutter that can make words seem to merge together for readers with dyslexia
- Distinct letter shapes, making it easier to distinguish between similar-looking letters like ‘b’ and ‘d’ or ‘p’ and ‘q’
- A clear, simple san-serif style, helping with readability by avoiding any unnecessary embellishments or visual complications
- Longer ascenders and descenders (the upwards line of a ‘d’ or downwards line of a ‘q’) making it easier to distinguish between different letters
- Careful attention to line length and height, creating space between different rows of text and reducing the risk of readers losing their place
- Even the punctuation helps: it’s designed to be bigger and easier to read, helping readers to parse sentences accurately
Speaking to Creative Review in 2019, Philipp Mühlebach, who worked with Google Fonts on bringing Lexend to a wider audience, encapsulated the thought process behind the font:
“Designers should strive to create inclusive designs that consider the needs of diverse users, including those with dyslexia. If you design for dyslexia in mind, you are improving legibility for all. It’s common sense.”
At Fox + Hare we believe in exactly the same principles: if we make positive changes for the people who don’t neatly fit in a box, it improves outcomes for everyone.
This is as true of the wider world as it is of typography and design. Diversity and equality aren’t just nice additions to running a business or a brand: they can open up whole new ways of thinking and working that produce better ideas and results for all of us.
With this in mind, it was a total no-brainer when it came to updating our website: why wouldn’t we choose a font that made our blog posts and case studies easier to read for as many people as possible?
It’s a small, almost imperceptible change, but one which could have vital repercussions for individual readers with dyslexia, as well as contributing to broader positive changes across society as fonts like Lexend become standard.
From the detailed design decisions which went into crafting Lexend, to the simple switch in our web CMS system, there’s an important lesson here: sometimes it’s the little things that matter most.
If you need a hand getting the details right, then we can help: drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org