Talk | Dynamic Font Day 2023

Creating accessible typography through visual prosody

16:20 — 17:00

Ann Bessemans
Hasselt University
Hasselt, Belgium

Effective communication relies on social cues like eye contact and expressive voice inflections, which are absent in written text. This absence poses challenges, particularly for young readers developing their literacy skills. Continuous text, and thus type, lacks the expressive nuances of our voices, hindering comprehension and occasionally causing misinterpretations. Readers must interpret vocal cues from text, which can be especially challenging, for young readers.

READSEARCH has shown that type design can visually represent speech prosody (intensity, duration, and pitch) in text, elevating reading experiences. Additionally, we've developed a system to visualize the basic emotions still allowing for changes in speech prosody. While closely related, prosody and emotion differ—prosody can change rapidly within a sentence, while emotions generally remain constant over a sentence or possibly even a thousand words. Both visualizations (speech prosody and emotion) equip readers with skills to grasp the text more effectively.
Having initiated legibility experiments with static text while creating variable fonts, we are now eager to explore possibilities in interaction and motion design. Animated transitions between related elements not only seem to enhance engagement but also aid comprehension by making it easier for readers to track changes. In this lecture, we anticipate active participation to foster a fruitful discussion by challenging participants. At READSEARCH, we believe that an interactive approach in type design holds untapped potential for enhancing the reading experience of continuous text.