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Research into

TYPOGRAPHIC DESIGN FOR YOUNG PEOPLE Anna Magombe BA Design for Graphic Communication 2010/11 Industrial and Theoretical Contexts: Research Report


Anna Magombe is a student at London College of Communication, University of the Arts London, studying for a BA in Design for Graphic Communication. Her previous experience as a Teaching Assistant for a youth inclusion organisation and Learning Support Assitant in both primary and secondary education settings, has led to an interest in developing ways of improving the ways children and young people can learn to read. Typographic Design for Young People is a final year research project, and an introductory look at how design can aid learning with the aim of developing and inciting further research in this field.


Which typefaces do young people prefer, and how do these relate to their motivation to learn and reading ability?


Contents Acknowledgements

5

Rationale

8

Methodology

11

Results

18

Conclusion

36

References

40


Acknowledgements Thank you: LaĂŤtitia-Anne Menhinick at St. Michael and All Angels Academy Linda Wiggett and Judith at Walworth Academy All the teachers whose classes I disrupted Students who participated in the study Everyone who contributed to the surveys Marlene Greenwood at Follifoot Farm Books Felicity Brooks at Usborne Publishing Jo Samways and Michael Spurling at Pearson Education Louise Power at Walker Books Susannah Rees and Catherine Smith at London College of Communication


Rationale & Methodology


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Research into Typographic Design for Young People

Literacy is a national issue. It has been claimed that roughly 20 per cent of all speakers of English leave school with very poor literacy skills. The UK’s high level of educational underachievement in comparison with other European countries may be the reason why many more of the UK’s young people are not in education, employment or training. Research into ways of developing the teaching of literacy skills in primary and secondary education is essential for the development and betterment of society. Research into the design of reading materials for children learning to read is an area that has been studied to an extent. Several studies have focused on size of type, interlinear spacing, and line length e.g. Tinker (1963). Findings suggest that an arrangement of 10- and 11point size, with a line length of 60 to 70 characters per line and additional interlinear space of 1 to 4 points is read more quickly than text in relatively long or short lines, smaller type sizes and with tight interlinear space. A few studies have looked at the difference between serifs and sans serifs in terms of speed of reading and comprehension e.g. Paterson and Tinker (1932; described in Tinker, 1963a), Poulton (1965), Moriarty and Scheiner (1984). No reliable difference has been found between serif and sans serif type in speed of reading and comprehension; speed of reading and comprehension of various fonts has generally been assumed to be related to familiarity with fonts. Such studies suggest that serifs should be used for body text and continuous prose, with sans serifs used for instructional manuals and headers. However, a study into the Effects of Typeface and Font Size on Legibility for Children (Originally presented at SWPA 2001) By Kristi Davis, Rebecca Woods, and Lauren Scharff, found that Arial is to be preferred over Times New Roman, which does not support the current use of serif fonts for reading material. This study also stated that ‘research supports that children process letter information more slowly than adults (Krueger, 1973), but they are able to discriminate small visual details (Gaines, 1969), which suggests that differences in text such as typeface and size may also be discriminated. However, the discriminability may vary, and thus, these types of differences may influence the ease with which children are able read’. Some typefaces are traditionally considered to be better for reading than others in terms of legibility and readability. However, there is not as much research into which typefaces are effective in helping children and young people to read as there is into the legibility and readability of typefaces for adult and general usage. Research has shown that it is possible that typefaces designed for adult reading may be just as legible, if not more so, than those used in reading materials designed to facilitate children’s learning (Wilkins et al, 2009). It is important to compare the typefaces young people prefer to those that are actually easiest for them to read, and are most beneficial in the learning process, and also to discover which typefaces children (and particularly young people with low reading ages) prefer to read because motivation can be a big factor in progression of learning; studies by the Typographic Design for Children project found that ‘discussions with children... confirmed that typefaces can have an important effect on how children perceive a text, and hence their motivation to read. Associations can be strong, and there seems to be some comfort for young children in reading things that look familiar or ‘normal’’. In particular, young people with low reading ages may feel uncomfortable and put off by having to read books designed for much younger children. The book ‘How Languages are learned’ by Lightbown and Spada, states that although “motivation is a complex phenomenon and teachers have no influence over


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The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. Sassoon was designed after years of research into children’s reading and writing. The Sassoon fonts are used for the teaching of both reading and handwriting.

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. Verdana is a typeface that was designed to be readable at small sizes on computer screens and therefore its characteristics make it particularly legible.

A. Wilkins et al (2009) found that children read more slowly with Sassoon than Verdana even though the spacing of the lines was larger and Sassoon was a font they were familiar with...

“Discussions with children about [typefaces] further confirmed that typefaces can have an important effect on how children perceive a text, and hence their motivation to read.” The Typographic Design for Children Project (2001-2005) Sue Walker, Linda Reynolds, Nicola Robson and Nadja Guggi. http://www.kidstype.org


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learners’ intrinsic motivation for learning... teachers can make a positive contribution to students’ motivation to learn if... content is interesting and relevant to their age and ability.” Wigfield et al’s 2004 study into ‘Children’s Motivation for Reading: Domain Specificity and Instructional Influences’ also states that “classroom efforts to increase children’s reading motivation have important implications not just for student motivation but also for student reading comprehension and achievement”. The choices of reading materials for children/young people that teachers and learning support staff make can affect the way their reading levels are assessed and provided for. Raban’s (1984) survey of teachers’ opinions showed that teachers thought spacing was less important than the size of print or style of typeface when choosing books for children. I therefore intend to do surveys of teaching staff’s opinions, as well as those of young people, regarding which typefaces they believe are most effective for learning. This is to find out how choices are made for young people and how these correlate with young people’s typographic preferences, and what reading material is best for their learning. There are many factors involved in learning motivation, particularly for young people who have difficulties reading. For example, in the current secondary education system in England, it is inevitable that students with lower reading levels will be tackling the curriculum alongside peers more skilled in literacy. Parental support and involvement in their child’s education as well as motivational factors in the classroom also play a big part in early cognitive development, emergent reading skills, motivation and self-concepts. These factors influence each other and can affect engagement in academic activities over time. This study takes in to account the effects of these wider issues and looks at how design can help to deal with the possible resultant factor of the decreased motivation of some students. This is achieved through a mixed methodology, including Font Readability Tests and surveys with young people with low reading ages in secondary education, surveys of teachers and support staff, and interviews with art, design and editorial staff at publishing companies.

The Font Sheet, which accompanies the Font Readability tests and surveys


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Font Readability Tests and Surveys with Young People The Font Readability tests were designed to test the speed and accuracy of reading blocks of randomised text formed of keywords that 8-10 year olds are expected to know, and were chosen from high/medium frequency word lists for Year 4/5 students. All participants are students aged 11-16, with assessed reading ages of 8-10. Students were selected from two mainstream secondary schools in London, and had all undergone a test of reading attainment to ascertain their reading age prior to participating in the study. The Font Readability tests are based on the Wilkins Rate of Reading Test, which is outlined in the research document ‘Typography in children’s reading schemes may be suboptimal: Evidence from measures of reading rate’ (Laura E. Hughes and Arnold J. Wilkins, 2000). Tests were conducted one-to-one, and reading distance was determined by the student. Each set of keywords was in a different typeface. The typefaces being tested were a mixture of typefaces that are considered most legible for adults (Helvetica Neue, Times New Roman, Bembo, Verdana), and those that tend to be used for children’s reading materials (Century Schoolbook, Comic Sans, Gill Sans, Sassoon Primary). Each student was timed and marked on their reading of the word sets and tested on visual search speed of words within the sets. This was to give an idea of how fast each typeface can be read both aloud and silently. The words in the sets were randomized so that comprehension would not affect speed of reading, therefore not measuring cognitive ability, intelligence or comprehension – purely speed of reading the typefaces. They were arranged so that for each typeface tested, there was a fair amount of ‘easy’ words and those with multiple syllables and digraphs. There is no repetition of words, therefore predictability is reduced. The words generally appear at an average 14pt size, but point size was adjusted slightly so that each typeface was relatively similar in x-height. This is because each typeface appears a different size leading to varied legibility, which affects reading. The aim was to reduce the amount of variables that may affect speed of reading, leaving only the shape of letterforms to be tested for legibility and aesthetic quality. The layout and design of the test and marking booklets are quite minimal for fewer distractions and ease of reading and marking, with clear and simple instructions for both the young person and examiner. The Student Questionnaire and Marking Book also contains a questionnaire asking the students questions about the differences between the fonts, their opinions on which typefaces are the easiest and most difficult to read, and which ones they prefer aesthetically.


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Teacher and Support Staff Surveys A survey of those that work closely with children learning to read – teachers, learning support/teaching assistants, SENCOs etc. was conducted online, with a printed questionnaire also available. The questionnaire was accompanied by a ‘Font Sheet’ which has a selection of fonts. These are the same fonts which are used in the Font Readability Tests for young people. The questions in the staff survey aimed to find out whether typography and book design are factors that are considered when choosing a book for a young person to read and which other factors are important. Also, teaching and learning support staff were asked which typefaces from the Font Sheet they thought were easiest and hardest to read. This is to compare with the opinions of the young people and to find out if adult assumptions correlate with what young people actually find motivational or preferable. They were also asked which typefaces they believed to be most appropriate for different age groups. The questionnaire is created to generate a mix of qualitative and quantitative information. As with the student questionnaire, there is some guidance in terms of getting as much information as possible from the questionnaire (phrasing, multiple choice, simple rating system etc.) but the questions remain unbiased to get as honest a response as possible.


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http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Q8CHSY6


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Expert Opinions

“As a designer, I cannot stand the typeface Comic Sans - I think it’s patronising and too ‘cartoony’. I’m interested to know if you will be including this typeface in your studies - it seems to be everywhere on anything to do with children. Do you think children actually like it or do adults assume that they do because of it’s child like aesthetic? ...Rosemary Sassoon’s typeface I think is the best one for children all round. It follows the ductus of handwritten text but is clear and designed with open shapes to aid reading... Most of my research centred around the Sassoon typeface which was developed to help dyslexic children read.” Susannah Rees (Associate Lecturer - London College of Communication UAL, PG Cert in Teaching and Learning, writer of the book ‘Write this Way’ on the design of teaching materials for both children and adults)

Interviewing Children’s Publishing Companies Many of the reading schemes designed for children and young people with low reading ages are published by companies such as Oxford Press and Heinemann, which have specific departments for children’s books and are reknowned for their publishing reputation. The interviews aimed to find out the process of designing for young people with low reading ages, and how designers made choices about the typographic design of such books: •

Do the children’s book designers that you work with have guidelines that they follow for consistency of typographic and graphic design? Could I have access to these guidelines as part of my research?

If there are typographic guidelines, who created them? Would it be possible to have their contact details for further information?

Are design guidelines for the children’s books your company publishes based on specific research into design that is most effective for learning? Is there any kind of consultation/ research process that informs design choices for these books?

Much of the literacy focused reading material currently available is targeted at primary school aged children. Do you publish reading books/teaching materials that aid literacy for young people and adults, and are designed specifically for older age groups? How do design guidelines for children’s books differ from those designed for teenage/adult learning?

Some of the responses were more in-depth than others, and in some cases they provided links and materials that gave further information. The sources are listed, and answers to questions were summarised.


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“Style and fashion is very important in typography, so we are continually trying new looks and adopting new typefaces in all our materials. A lot of our decisions (especially about type) are made by gut instinct and by drawing on our experience as publishers.” - Felicity Brooks, Editorial Director (Usborne)

“It is important that as a reader becomes independent, they are exposed to a variety of fonts, so that they are prepared for the vast array of fonts that face them in all forms of media.” - Jo Samways, Creative Lead for Primary Design (Pearson Education)

“For our picture books [the designers] choose a typeface which they feel is the best one to compliment the art and design of the book. They do not particularly worry about the child’s reading ability because picture books are read to the child by an adult.” - Louise Power, Art Consultant (Walker Books)


Results


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Expert Opinions

Interviews with publishing companies revealed a variety of approaches to the design process of children’s books. Two of the companies use typefaces specifically designed for children learning to read: Follifoot Farm use Sassoon, and Heinemann use their own font. Sassoon was designed by Dr Rosemary Sassoon in 1986 when she discovered that no research had been undertaken to find out from children themselves what kind of letters they found easiest to read. The aim was to create a font for educational publishers before most people had personal computers. It is now a popular font, available to download for general usage. It is included as a test font in the Font Readability Tests. The Heinemann font is also available for download, but is not as well known as Sassoon, which has been adapted for use by teachers to not only teach reading but also handwriting. Walker Books and Usborne do not have specific guidelines, but allow their designers to choose what they think would be most suitable for the book or series. They do consult with experts on reading, and there is an awareness of typographic factors that affect learner readers, such as font size and letter and line spacing, which decrease with higher age/ reading levels. The use of infant ‘a’s and ‘g’s is also a key element for younger readers and those with lower reading ability, as they are recognised easier because they look more like the letters children are taught to write. It is unclear to what extent these companies consult children, if at all, although Heinemann do claim to have done so during the development of their font.


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Follifoot Farm The main source for Marlene Greenwood’s (author and illustrator of Jelly and Bean and Follifoot Farm books) decisions in terms of typefaces for their books is the DFES 2001 publication, Developing Early Writing (p163-165), which does not go into detail about typographic elements or research into typographic design for children but it does have a small section on ‘Early graphics’. This section highlights the fact that children are constantly surrounded by graphics and interact with it, making links between letters that they see with sounds they hear and actions that they make such as tracing letters and writing. Other parts of this document also link the development of interest in the printed word with its effect on emergent writing and spelling development. This link between writing development and the printed form underpins another of Follifoot Farm’s typographic resources – the Sassoon font. Jelly and Bean books are all printed in the Sassoon Primary Infant family of fonts. Sassoon was designed by Dr. Rosemary Sassoon and Adrian Williams to simplify the link between reading and handwriting following research to find out which fonts children found easiest to read. Sassoon and Williams say that unlike most modern typefaces that have shortened ascenders and descenders to fit as much text as possible, the friendly, easily recognisable letters producing a well defined word shape are easier to read. They explain that research has shown that exit strokes like those used in the Sassoon Infant family help to give unity to the words by clumping letters together along the baseline. These encourage spontaneous joins and build in adequate space between letters, whether separate or joined. Sassoon letterforms are seen as representations of handwritten letterforms, with arches that reflect the movement of handwritten forms. Based on information from: Marlene Greenwood (Author and Illustrator - Jelly and Bean, Follifoot Farm books) www.follifootfarm.co.uk www.clubtype.co.uk Developing Early Writing (DFES 2001)

Walker Walker books was founded on a dedication to provide children and their parents with the best story and picture books possible. They have been going strong since 1980. Walker do not have any typographic guidelines for their children’s books – their designers make aesthetic decisions based on the licensed fonts that Walker have access to, and which they feel would look best. For picture books, the designers choose typefaces which they feel is the best one to compliment the art and design of the book. They do not particularly worry about the child’s reading ability because picture books are read to the child by an adult. In the Walker Stories fiction books, Bembo Educational is used as they are first reading books, so use reading a’s and g’s and so on. For all other fiction the designer selects the font they feel is most suitable. Based on information from: Louise Power (Art Consultant – Walker Books)


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Based on information from: Michael Spurling (Design & Media Administrator – Pearson Education) Jo Samways (Creative Lead for Primary Design – Pearson Education) http://new.myfonts.com/fonts/fw-heinemann/heinemann/ www.heinemann.co.uk www.pearsonschoolsandfecolleges.co.uk ‘h is for heinemann’ information booklet


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Pearson Heinemann The Heinemann font family has been designed under the Pearson’s Heinemann imprint, specifically for use in early years and special needs teaching. As well as being used as the main font family for their educational publishing, it is also available for teachers to purchase and download for use in their own materials. The font is defined by long ascenders and descenders which help children distinguish between letters, rounded edges on letterforms to help focus the reader on individual letter shapes, and modified characters (e.g. a, g) to ensure instant recognition of letterforms. There are further modified characters and kerning pairs for dyslexic or special needs use (e.g. a, d, b). The Heinemann fonts were developed in partnership with children, literacy advisors, teachers of special needs/dyslexia and primary school teachers. An information booklet on the Heinemann font says that it comes in a special, ultra-heavy, Black cut that can be reduced without compromising legibility. The font family consists of twelve cuts. Eight years of research led to the development of a font that is friendly, warm and legible. Important factors that were considered were the use of infant ‘a’s and ‘g’s, rounded corners on all letters, different looking capital ‘i’ and lower case ‘l’. Dyslexia can lead to letter recognition difficulties so there is extra differentiation between letters like ‘p’ and ‘q’, ‘b’ and ‘d’. For clarity, kerning has also been adjusted on specific pairs for example changing ‘rn’ so that it does not look ‘m’. All body text on primary reading material up to independent reading age is printed using the Heinemann font family. This is based on years of research and trialling with schools, and guidelines by dyslexic support organisations and the government that points to the use of sans serif, infant ‘a’ fonts such as Sassoon. However, there are no formal guideline documents for covers and marketing design. Design choices for these are based on experience, research, and by keeping an eye on fashions and styles. Pearson also publishes reading material for the secondary and tertiary sector with equal emphasis on clarity of typography, ease of use and layout. More of a variety of fonts are used to allow the reader become independent by preparing them for the vast array of fonts that face them in all forms of media. The ‘Rapid’ series of books are designed for the older, but not independent reader with content suitability aimed at older children, and typography and legibility that are suitable for the non-independent reader.


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Usborne Usborne are not an educational publisher so do not create formal teaching materials or those linked to any curriculum or syllabus, but they do design materials to support learning at home and at school. A large part of their market is in co-editions, foreign rights and EFL (English as a Foreign Language) so one of their design considerations is that the book should be translatable and appealing to language learners. A document outlining considerations when preparing illustrated books for co-editions has a section on text and page layout. This includes some typographic observations such as fitting translated text by adjusting point size and placement of text. However there is no mention of typefaces. There is no formal rule book for type decisions – many of these are based on gut instinct and the experience of designers, editors and publishers. New looks and typefaces are adopted based on typographic styles and fashions. A series designer will select a number of possible typefaces and point sizes in consultation with editors (and educational experts for ‘reading’ titles). These are presented to the Art Director, Publishing Director and Sales Director for approval. Once a decision has been made, the editor draws up an editorial policy for the series or title to ensure consistency across the range. In general, for reading titles Usborne use infant fonts with a reading ‘a’ and ‘g’ – sometimes adapting typefaces (with permission). Early reading materials tend to have more generous leading and type size. Point sizes are gradually reduced for older age-groups. Type is not placed on dark or fussy backgrounds or overlapped with illustration. Consultation with reading experts confirms that infant semi-serif typefaces are best for beginner readers as they help emphasize letter shapes and are closest to the letter formation taught in handwriting (though this varies from country to country).


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For baby and toddler books (‘read to’ titles) Usborne generally use sans-serif type faces in large point sizes (15 pt and above) and keep the word count very low as this signals ‘very young’ to the parent/carer (who will probably be the one choosing or buying the book and certainly the one reading it). For series aimed at reluctant/low ability older readers, type size is not increased and sans serif are not used as this would make a title look too ‘babyish’ (similarly words like ‘beginner’ or ‘starting’ in series titles on cover are avoided), but sentence structure is kept simple with controlled and regular vocabulary combined with high interest subject information or story and visually rich pictures and plenty of captions (N.B These books are know in trade as ‘high-low’). The aim is to never patronise readers of whatever age or ability. (Adults often tell Usborne they use their books and materials, especially for language learning, cookery etc.). Usborne are gradually adopting lexile measures as an indication of reading level (rather than age-grouping). Research on these websites has proved to be useful for the design of their other materials such as spelling cards: http://www.dyslexic.com/fonts http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/about-dyslexia/further-information/dyslexia-style-guide.html A guide to the Usborne Reading Programme for teachers and parents gives examples of books that are part of each reading level. The book ‘Adolf Hitler’ is in the Young Reading Series Three, suitable for readers of Key Stage 2 (7+). It is set in Futura 12pt type, whereas books for First Reading Levels 1-4 (up to KS1) are in a seriffed font with single story ‘a’s and ‘g’s. The type size, leading and letter spacing decreases progressively as the reading level increases. Based on information from: Felicity Brooks (Editorial Director - Usborne Publishing (Oxford)) Usborne Co-editions Guidelines Learn to Love Reading with the Usborne Reading Programme: A Guide for Teachers and Parents The Parents’ Guide to Usborne Very First Reading http://www.usborne.com/veryfirstreading/books/books/aspx


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Teacher and Support Staff Surveys

44

33

22 1 (Most (Most important) important) 1 2 2 3 3 4 4 5 (Least (Least important) important) 5

11

book Length of book Length

Layout

Level of difficulty

book/series thebook/series ofthe Publisherof Publisher

book/series of the Author Author of book/series

Size of of font

Storyline Storyline

Type Type of of font

illustration of illustration quality of andquality Amountand Amount

00 Attractive Attractive cover cover

Number consideredthe thefactor factor people who considered of people Number of choosing reading material when choosing when material for for students students

Six members of staff, all from various educational institutions and of varying roles, participated in the survey. Most of the teachers and support staff surveyed worked mostly with 14-16 year olds, read with their students 2-3 times per week and either chose books for them to read or took turns choosing. When choosing books for the students, factors that were important in their decision were: the level of difficulty of the book, size of font and storyline. The author or publisher of the book was not seen to be an important issue, as focus seems to be on content with illustrations and layout also being considered.


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Those that were surveyed gave their opinions on which of the eight typefaces they thought were appropriate for certain age groups. Century Schoolbook was seen to be appropriate for the widest range of ages. The serifed Times New Roman and Bembo are considered appropriate for 14-16 year olds, and Helvetica for 5-7 year olds.

80 70

60 50 40 14-16 year year olds olds 14-16 11-13 year 11-13 year olds olds 8-10 year year olds olds 8-10 5-7 year year olds olds 5-7

30 20

8. 8. Verdana Verdana

Bembo 7. Bembo 7.

Primary Sassoon Primary 6. Sassoon 6.

Gill Sans 5. Gill 5. Sans

Comic Sans 4. Comic 4. Sans

Roman New Roman Times New 3.3.Times

0

Schoolbook Century Schoolbook 2.2.Century

10

Helvetica Neue 1. Helvetica 1. Neue

% of of people peoplewho whoselected selectedtypeface typeface as % as appropriate appropriatefor forthe theage agegroup group

90

Sixty percent of those surveyed thought Helvetica Neue was the easiest typeface to read, and reasons given for this were that the letters have clear, simple, friendly forms. Sassoon was also considered the easiest by one primary school teacher because “the ‘a’ in it is like the one which is conventially taught in writing.” The most difficult typefaces to read were seen to be Bembo and Times New Roman. The serifs of Times New Roman were seen to be “irritating and unnecessarily complicated” and the letters too close together. Bembo’s letters were “not bold enough”. Opinions on which fonts are the easiest and hardest to read correlate with the opinions of students who were surveyed, which suggests that generally people of all ages may have very similar views on typefaces, and also that teaching staff have a good idea of what may be a better choice of reading material in terms of the typographic design.


1 26

Most difficult typeface to read (students)

Difficult Typeface to Read (Students) Most difficult typeface to read (teaching staff)

Easiest to read Staff) ult Typeface totypeface Read (Teaching (students)

Easiest typeface to read (teaching staff)

Easiest Typeface to Read (Students) 0%

10%

20%

30%

40%

50%

60%

70%

st Typeface to Read (Teaching staff)

0.00% 1. 1. Helvetica Helvetica Neue Neue 5. Gill Sans 5. Gill Sans

10.00%

20.00%

2. Schoolbook 2. Century Century Schoolbook 6. Sassoon Primary 6. Sassoon Primary

30.00%

40.00%

3. Times New New Roman Roman 3. Times 7. 7. Bembo Bembo

50.00%

4. Sans 4. Comic Comic Sans 8. 8. Verdana Verdana

60.00%

70.0


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Font Readability Tests and Surveys with Young People

The students that were surveyed were clear about their opinions on the fonts, some of them giving very specific comments on the differences between the fonts and shapes of the letters. For example, one student described Comic Sans by saying “there is no line under the ‘q’. ‘I’ is like a ‘1’.” Many of the students thought Bembo was the worst looking and hardest to read, but it was also one of the favourites aesthetically despite being seen as the hardest to read. Helvetica was seen as the easiest to read in the survey, although in the Font Readability tests it had the worst average for visual search tests, one of the slowest reading times on average, and students read it with the lowest level of accuracy compared to the other fonts. People liked it because it is ‘bold’ and ‘thick’. The students that found Helvetica to be the least attractive were those that were older (13 years +) with a bigger difference between their actual age and reading age (6 years +). These students thought the seriffed fonts (Times New Roman, Bembo and Century Schoolbook) were most attractive. One of them said that “Times New Roman is one of the best ones because it’s the one most people use.” Overall, opinions did not vary much when ages and reading levels were taken into account. The fonts read with the most accuracy were Gill Sans, Comic Sans, Century Schoolbook, Sassoon Primary (coincidentally these are the fonts often used in children’s reading material - students may be more familiar with these fonts). Traditional fonts used in children’s books, Century Schoolbook and Gill Sans, were also read the fastest. Despite being considered the easiest to read, Helvetica was read with the least accuracy, followed by Times New Roman and Bembo which were both described as ‘small’ and ‘thin’. Sassoon Primary, which was designed to help children learn to read by looking more like handwriting, was described as ‘fancy’, ‘curly’, and ‘wierd’. It did not score very high in the tests or surveys. Comic Sans, which is used in a lot of children’s reading material despite the opinion of many designers that it is poorly designed and often inappropriately used, did slightly better than Sassoon although there were mixed opinions on the font. Century schoolbook did well, rated second best font out of the eight in the surveys and top of the list with the Font Readability Test statistics. It was described as ‘normal’. One student said Century schoolbook“looks a bit more neater instead of so complicated.” This is supported by a quote by Leo Leonni (author and illustrator of children’s books), “Typography should be seen and not heard, because reading is functional and should not be tampered with.” His more than forty books are set in Century Schoolbook. The following pages show some of the data collected during the tests and surveys.

“The ‘f’ can get mixed up with an ‘s’. It looks a bit like fancy writing.” An 11 year old girl, with a reading age of 9 years and 10 months, talks about Sassoon Primary


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Typeface that is the to read’

10

Typeface that is the 'easiest‘easiest to read'

9

1. Helvetica Neue 2. Century Schoolbook 3. Times New Roman 4. Comic Sans 5. Gill Sans

8 7 6 5 4

Difficult Typeface to Read (Students) 3

6. Sassoon Primary 7. Bembo 1. Helvetica Neue 2. Century Schoolbook 8. Verdana

2 1

5. Gill Sans

0 Average time taken to to read Average time taken read(seconds) (seconds)

3. Times New Roman 7. Bembo

4. Comic Sans

Typeface that is the 8. Verdana Typeface that is the 'hardest to read' to read’ ‘hardest 6. Sassoon Primary

2.5

2.5

2

1. Helvetica Neue

1. Helvetica Neue 2. Century 2. Century Schoolbook Schoolbook 3. Times New 3. Times New Roman Roman Comic Sans 1. Helvetica Neue 2. Century 4. 4. Comic Sans Schoolbook 5. Gill Sans 5. Gill Sans 5. Gill Sans 6. Sassoon Primary

2

ult Typeface to Read (Teaching Staff) 1.5

1.5

11

3. Times New Roman 7. Bembo

4. Comic Sans

Typeface 8. Verdanathat Typeface that 'looks the best' Sassoon ‘looks the best’ 6. 6. Sassoon Primary Primary Bembo 7. 7. Bembo 8. 8. Verdana Verdana

0.5 0.5 00 Average time takento to find find w ord Average time taken word (seconds) Average time taken to find w ord(seconds) (seconds)

Easiest Typeface 12.1 to Read (Students) 12

1. Helvetica Neue Century 3. Times New 4. Comic Sans 2. Century2.Schoolbook Roman 5. Gill Schoolbook Sans 6. Sassoon Primary 7. Bembo 8. Verdana that Typeface Typeface that 'looks the worst' ‘looks the worst’ 3. Times New Roman 4. Comic Sans 5. Gill Sans 1. Helvetica Neue

11.9 11.8 11.7

6. Sassoon Primary 7. Bembo 8. Verdana

11.6

st Typeface 11.5 to Read (Teaching staff) 11.4

Average reading (outofof12) 12) Average readingaccuracy accuracy (out

0.00%

10.00%

1. Helvetica Neue 2. Century 20.00% 30.00% Schoolbook 5. Gill Sans

1. 1. Helvetica Helvetica Neue Neue 5. Gill Sans 5. Gill Sans

2. Schoolbook 2. Century Century Schoolbook 6. Sassoon Primary 6. Sassoon Primary

6. Sassoon Primary

3. Times New 40.00% Roman 7. Bembo

3. Times New New Roman Roman 3. Times 7. 7. Bembo Bembo

4. Comic Sans 50.00% 8. Verdana

4. Sans 4. Comic Comic Sans 8. 8. Verdana Verdana

60.00%

70.0


29

The fonts were rated and scored according to reading test results and surveys (e.g. positive points for positive ratings, and vice versa)

Best Fonts (According to Student Surveys) 1. Helvetica Neue 2. Century Schoolbook 3. Times New Roman 4. Comic Sans 5. Sassoon 6. Gill Sans & Verdana 7. Bembo

Best Fonts (According to Font Readability Tests) 1. Century Schoolbook 2. Gill Sans 3. Comic Sans 4. Sassoon 5. Verdana & Bembo 6. Times New Roman 7. Helvetica Neue

The scoring for the Best Fonts (According to Student Surveys) was based on answers to questions asking students about which of the eight fonts they thought were the easiest and hardest to read, and which they thought looked the best and worst. It is therefore a summary of subjective analyses of the fonts. The scoring for the Best Fonts (According to Font Readability Tests) was based on quantitative data from the reading tests, including statistics on the average time taken to read each font, the average time taken to find a word within a block of text in each font, and the average reading accuracy of each font.


30

Helvetica Neue

Century Schoolbook

Times New Roman

Comic Sans


31

Word clouds that give prominence to the most frequently used words in student surveys, when the students were asked their opinions on the fonts. Created on Wordle (http://www.wordle.net/)

Gill Sans

Sassoon Primary

Bembo

Verdana


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10y 6.7m

2y 1.7m

10y 7.4m

2y 2.4m

Typeface cchosen as the one that ‘looks the worst’

Typeface chosen as the one that ‘looks the best’

Typeface considered most difficult to read

Difficult Typeface to Read (Students)

Typeface considered easiest to read

Difference between assessed reading age and actual age (years and months)

Age on the date of the Font Readability Test

Opinions on fonts arranged by age on the date of the Font Readability Test

11y 2y 10.6m ult Typeface to 2.6m Read (Teaching Staff) 11y 3m

3y 1m

11y 6.5m

1y 8.5m

11y 7.5m

2y 9.5m

11y 8.4m

2y 2.4m

11y 11.3m

2y 1.3m

11y 11.4m

3y 11.4m

Easiest Typeface to Read (Students) 12y 1.3m 3y 11.3m 12y 8.3m

3y 2.3m

13y 3m

4y 6m

13y 5m

6y 2m

13y 6m

4y 7m

13y 6m

5y 0m

13y 9m 6y 7m st Typeface to Read (Teaching staff) 14y 0m 6y 5m 15y 2.5m

6y 2.5m

0.00% 1. 1. Helvetica Helvetica Neue Neue 5. Gill Sans 5. Gill Sans

10.00%

20.00%

2. Schoolbook 2. Century Century Schoolbook 6. Sassoon Primary 6. Sassoon Primary

30.00%

40.00%

3. Times New New Roman Roman 3. Times 7. 7. Bembo Bembo

50.00%

4. Sans 4. Comic Comic Sans 8. 8. Verdana Verdana

60.00%

70.0


33

2y 1.3m

10y 6.7m

2y 1.7m

10y 7.4m

2y 2.4m

11y 8.4m

2y 2.4m

11y 7.5m

2y 9.5m

11y 2.6m

2y 10.6m

11y 3m

3y 1m

12y 8.3m

3y 2.3m

12y 1.3m

3y 11.3m

11y 11.4m

3y 11.4m

13y 3m

4y 6m

13y 6m

4y 7m

13y 6m

5y 0m

13y 5m

6y 2m

15y 2.5m

6y 2.5m

14y 0m

6y 5m

13y 9m

6y 7m

Typeface cchosen as the one that ‘looks the worst’

11y 11.3m

Typeface chosen as the one that ‘looks the best’

1y 8.5m

Typeface considered most difficult to read

Difference between assessed reading age and actual age (years and months)

11y 6.5m

Typeface considered easiest to read

Age on the date of the Font Readability Test

Opinions on fonts arranged by ascending difference between assessed reading age and actual age


Conclusion


36

Conclusion

Although the tests were designed to create a fair test with minimal variables, there are some evaluative points to consider when looking at the information gathered through this study. Time and financial constraints mean that the there were a limited number of participants. The text used in tests was not extensive (so that tests could be done more efficiently) and difference in time taken to read each typeface, for a example, was not significant. The analysis of the the Font Readability Tests should therefore be taken as not necessarily representative and reliable as a measure of the true effectiveness of fonts when applied to children’s reading materials. Other factors also play a part in this, for example changing the line length, size of font and letter and line spacing could mean any of these fonts could be designed and utilised in a way that may be more legible. The context in which it is used is also important; some fonts are excellent display types but are not easily digestible when applied to body text or used at smaller point sizes. Standard fonts such as the ones tested in this study are not necessarily the kind that will compliment the style or function of a book - experimental typography that is not all neatly aligned can add playfulness, emphasis and rhythm, and compliment illustrated stories like in the Dr. Seuss books. Overall, what has been found is that what people believe to be the easiest or hardest to read may not actually be true when tested. If the idea that good design and typography should be seen and not heard is correct, then perhaps it is the fact that the ‘worst’ fonts to read are the ones that are most noticeable and naturally generate the most opinion. However, if this were a rule then Gill Sans and Verdana should be considered the ‘best’ fonts out the eight, which was not proven statistically. In regard to which typeface young people prefer to read, Helvetica Neue was by far the font considered easiest to read by most people, students and staff. This may mean that students and teachers would choose this as a font to read, but not to type with (it was not considered to be that attractive). The thick strokes and rounded forms were seen to be more appealing than the thin ‘small’ shapes of Bembo, voted the hardest to read (but still received more votes as best looking font than Helvetica). Typefaces such as Bembo and Times New Roman are ‘traditional’ looking fonts, seen as those often used for adult reading material, whereas young people are more exposed now to an array of modern typefaces. However, young people who are learning to read may do so more often with books using typefaces either designed for learners or dyslexic children (such as Sassoon or the Heinemann font) or infant versions of classic rounded faces such as Century Schoolbook or Gill Sans. Familiarity with such fonts may mean that they instinctively read easier with these fonts, although their views about fonts are shaped by all the other sources they are exposed to – the internet, magazines, a constant bombardment of advertising everywhere they look. Many modern typefaces are designed to fit as much text as possible into a space, which is not always beneficial for those who struggle to read. Ilene Strizver, founder of The Type Studio, suggests that type for children should incorporate warm, friendly design with simple, generous letter shapes, avoiding non-traditional letter forms. Larger x-heights are generally easier to read but whether using serifs or sans serifs, extremes can impair readability, thus medium weights should be selected. Strizver suggests Sassoon as an appropriate typeface for children’s design, but its similarity to handwritten text is not always appropriate. The fact that size of fonts and spacing is reduced with the target age of a book’s reader means that books with larger spacing and handwritten styles err away from what can be considered


37

‘adult design’. For teenagers who find reading difficult, seen to be reading a ‘baby book’ can be extremely demotivating, particularly in educational settings where they are amongst peers with higher literacy skills. The social element in the learning process may be underestimated. Studies by Guthrie et al (1995, 2000) and Wentzel (1996) show that social motivation leads to increased amount of reading and high achievement in reading. Unfortunately, motivation for reading decreases as children go through school. Oldfather and colleagues (Oldfather & Dahl, 1994; Oldfather & McLaughlin, 1993) found that students’ intrinsic motivation to read declined as they went into middle school. This can be further emphasised as students develop a greater awareness that they may not be as capable as their peers. Emotion and motivation play a pivotal role in explaining the achievement tendencies of students with reading difficulties (Sideridis et al, 2006), and it is important to develop methods of encouraging reading whilst avoiding the frustration and anxiety that can accompany it. A balance needs to be created between what is most readable in terms of typographic and layout design, and reading-age-appropriate content. However, the task of creating books that appeal to the wide range of ages, such as the secondary school students that participated in this study, who have the same reading age range of 8-10 for example, would be a difficult one. Motivation to read, or learn to do so, is also derived from a variety of external as well as intrinsic sources. As with the controversy regarding whether young people should be held back in school until they are ready to progress onto the next year (regardless of learning difficulty), the issue lies in whether young people should have learning material differentiated to suit their individual needs or simply accept their position and deal with the resources available to them. Special Educational Needs staff that were told that the premise of the study was to find a way past young people feeling demotivated by reading material that was unsuitably designed for their age, said that this simply wouldn’t happen. The surveys of teaching staff show that their priority is selecting books that are of an appropriate level of difficulty, legibility, and of interest to the student. Their ideas of which fonts would be suitable correlate with student preferences, reflecting their understanding of the different age groups. Those working closely with young people with special educational needs understand the needs of individual students and make time to find differentiated methods to work on the difficulties each young person may have. But with the downturn in the economy and changes in the educational system, many schools have encountered problems with being able to meet the needs of students in the same way that they did before. Even where improvements have been made, support staff and teachers in mainstream schools should have access to resources that make it easier for them to support students that struggle to access mainstream education. Publishers of books for children clearly have a structure to the way they design their books – writers work using key words for specific age groups, literacy experts can ensure that content and language is suitable and appropriate, and designers use their experience and knowledge to make sure it is readable. Some of them design their books based on research into suitable typography or create their own typefaces. However, despite much development in the type and style of books being published, many schools still use the same primary reading schemes that were being used in schools twenty years ago. In ‘Design Literacy: Understanding Graphic Design’ (2004), Steven Heller reminds us that since the 1980s, type design has become integral to the entire children’s book as the author/illustrator became more of an active participant in the design process and the computer forced the widespread re-evaluation of typographic principles in all print media. Young people have witnessed rapid changes in communications and media and this has affected the way they themselves communicate, interpret language and graphics, and manage an overwhelming amount of information on a daily basis. An awareness of this, and further research into how not only books but online material, games and worksheets can be devised to aid learning in schools, is more important now than ever before.


References


40

BOOKS AND JOURNALS De Lange, R.W., Esterhuizen, B. and Beatty, D. (1993). ‘Performance differences between Times and Helvetica in reading tasks.’ Electronic Publishing - origination, dissemination and design, Vol. 6 (3), p241-8. Guthrie, J. (2000). Contexts for engagement and motivation in reading. In: Kamil, M.L. et al (eds.) Handbook of reading research: Volume III. New York: Erlbaum, pp.403-422. Guthrie, J.T. et al (2004). Children’s motivation for reading: domain specificity and instructional influences. Journal of Educational Research, Vol. 97 (6), pp. 299-309. Heller, S. (1995). ‘Type play for kids’. Eye, Vol. 5 (19), pp.44-53 Heller, S. (1997). Typography for children. In: S. Heller and K. Pomeroy (eds), Design literacy: understanding graphic design, New York: Allworth Press, pp. 108-111. Hughes, L.E. and Wilkins, A.J. (2000). Typography in children’s reading schemes may be suboptimal evidence from measures of reading rate. Journal of Research in Reading, Vol. 23 (3), pp. 314-324. Lightbown, P.M. and Spada, N. (2006). How Languages are Learned. Oxford University Press. Morgan, P.L. et al (2008). Does early reading failure decrease children’s reading motivation? Journal of Learning Disabilities, Vol. 41 (5), pp. 387-404. Sideridis, G.D. et al (2006). Classification of students with reading comprehension difficulties: the roles of motivation, affect and psychopathology. Learning Disability Quarterly, Vol. 29, pp159. Walker, S. and Reynolds (2000) Serifs, sans serifs and infant characters in children’s reading books. Information Design Journal [Internet] Vol. 11 (2/3), pp.106–22. Available from <http://www. ingentaconnect.com/content/jbp/idj/2003/00000011/00000003/art00003> Walker, S. and Reynolds (2004) ‘You can’t see what the words say’: word spacing and letter spacing in children’s reading books. Journal of Research and Reading [Internet] Vol. 27 (1), pp. 87-88. Available at: <http://fyp.terapad.com/resources/12312/assets/documents/You_cant_see_what_the_words_say.pdf> Wilkins, A. et al (2009) Typography for Children May Be Inappropriately Designed. Journal of Research in Reading [Internet] vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 402-412. Available from <http://www.essex.ac.uk/psychology/ overlays/2009-185.pdf>

ONLINE PUBLICATIONS AND ARTICLES About.com: Desktop Publishing. Type, legibility and readability [Internet] Available at: <http://desktoppub. about.com/od/typelegibility/Type_Legibility_and_Readability.htm> [Accessed 14 July 2010] Anon (2002). Real books beat reading schemes. BBC News, [Internet] 19 January. Available at: <http:// news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/1769080.stm> [Accessed 9 July 2010] Bilak, P. Illegibility. [Internet] Available from <http://desktoppub.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/XJ/Ya&zTi=1&s dn=desktoppub&cdn=compute&tm=2696&f=11&tt=14&bt=1&bts=1&zu=http%3A//www.typ.nl/TYP04/ woud/illegibility/illegibility02.html> Brighten the Corners. Selected work 1999-2009. [Internet] Available at: <http://www.brightenthecorners. com/page.php?menu=3> [Accessed 3 January 2011] BrightMinds (2010). Spelling Lists [Internet] Available at: <http://www.brightminds.co.uk/publish. asp?what=spellinglist&page=1> [Accessed 7 July 2010] Club Type. The Sassoon Project [Internet] Available at: <http://www.clubtype.co.uk/> [Accessed 18 July 2010] Davis, K., Woods, R., and Scharff L. (2001) Effects of Typeface and Font Size on Legibility for Children. [Internet]. Available at: <http://www.laurenscharff.com/research/develread.html>


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Debbie Hepplewhite’s Synthetic Phonics. Burt Reading Test [Internet] Available at: <http://www. syntheticphonics.com/burtreadingtestpage.htm> [Accessed 8 September 2010] Heller, S. (2002). Children’s Books; Faces in the Crowd [Internet] Available at: <http://www.nytimes. com/2002/11/17/books/children-s-books-faces-in-the-crowd.html?pagewanted=1> DfEE (2001). Emergent writing. In: DfEE, 2001. National Literacy Strategy: Developing Early Writing, [Internet] Available at: <http://nationalstrategies.standards.dcsf.gov.uk/node/47342> [Accessed 18 July 2010] Gary Sturt Psychology Websites. Motivation in education [Internet] Available at: <http://www.garysturt. free-online.co.uk/motivat1.htm> [Accessed 10 October 2010] Helen Hamlyn Research Centre (2003). Read: Developing a typeface for people with dyslexia [Internet] Available at: <http://www.hhc.rca.ac.uk/archive/hhrc/programmes/ra/2003/natascha.html> [Accessed 15 July 2010] Jelly and Bean at Follifoot Farm. Fonts and handwriting [Internet] Available at: <http://www.follifootfarm. co.uk/fonts.html> [Accessed 18 July 2010] Johnson, K. (1998) Readability and reading ages of school science text-books. [Internet] Available at: <http://www.timetabler.com/readable.pdf> Poole, A. Which Are More Legible: Serif or Sans Serif Typefaces? [Internet] Available at: <http://alexpoole. info/which-are-more-legible-serif-or-sans-serif-typefaces> [Accessed 7 July 2010] Ronin Group. Tschichold: Composition Rules [Internet] Available at: <http://ronin-group.org/misc_etext_ tschichold.html> [Accessed 7 July 2010] Sassoon, R. and Williams, A. (2000). Why Sassoon? (Publicity leaflet published by Sassoon and Williams) [Internet] Available at: <http://www.clubtype.co.uk/fonts/sas/Why%20Sassoon.pdf> Strizver, I. Typography for Children [Internet] Available at: <http://www.fonts.com/AboutFonts/Articles/ fyti/Typography+for+Children.htm> StudyUnit (2002). Motivation and Education [Internet] Available at: <http://studyunit.com/Motivation.pdf> [Accessed 10 October 2010] TimeTabler (2010). Readability: The effect of interest and motivation [Internet] Available at: <http://www. timetabler.com/> [Accessed 7 July 2010] Typophile (2010). Typography in children’s books [Internet] Available at: <http://typophile.com/ node/66159> [Accessed 9 July] UK Children’s Books. List of Publishers [Internet] Available at: <http://www.ukchildrensbooks.co.uk/pubs. html> [ Accessed 15 July 2010] University of Essex. Psychology: List of Publications [Internet] Available at: <http://www.essex.ac.uk/ psychology/overlays/publications2.htm> [Accessed 7 July 2010] University of Reading. Typographic Design for Children [Internet] Available at <http://www.kidstype.org/ index.html> [Accessed 7 July 2010] Walker, S. et al (2001-2006) Typographic Design for Children Project [Internet] Available at: <http://www. kidstype.org> Wikipedia. Motivation [Internet] Available at: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motivation> [Accessed 10 October 2010]


Research into Typographic Design for Young People  

Anna Magombe is a student at London College of Communication, University of the Arts London, studying for a BA in Design for Graphic Communi...

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