Letters, Optics, & The Visual Cortex by Tyler Hawkins

For 500 years publishing has been designed for a general audience, often missing specific considerations for people with varied vision. For this talk, I'll discuss the current state of research on font design for low vision.

“Reading is one of the most complex activities a human can do and yet we take it all for granted.” (The Readability Group). Reading depends on 250 million rods and cones detecting light and relaying electrical signals to the language centres in the brain for interpretation. Sight and language interpretation vary from person to person. Letters have remained largely unchanged for hundreds of years, created for a general audience without consideration for variations in vision. Evidence shows that modifications to letters for people with low vision improves reading and yet this aspect of accessibility is often overlooked. I’d like to present a snapshot of the writing and scientific research on fonts for low vision, their strengths, limitations and opportunities.

Tyler Hawkins wearing a hat, smiling at the camera. He is wearing a blue buttoned denim shirt.

Tyler Hawkins

Tyler's bio

Tyler Hawkins (he/him) is a designer interested in accessibility, technology, and letters. He’s currently the project lead of the Access Font project and has worked with the Health Design Lab and Arc’teryx. He lives in Squamish, on the unceded territory of the Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation).