Design for older readers
With greater age follows a range of reading deficits, which can be met through the right setting of typography. We show new scientific findings on the legibility of typefaces for elderly readers and suggest ways of improving visual acuity for this target group.
The effect of age and font on reading ability
To inform our knowledge of the typographical variables of stroke weight, letter width, and letter spacing, and their effects on different age groups and reading scenarios, we used Radner Reading Chart, where we measured reading speed at different sizes, to compare the fonts KBH Text, KBH Display, and Gill Sans Light. The experiment showed that for older participants, reading Gill Sans resulted in faster reading speed compared to KBH Text. However, Gill Sans could not be recognized at small sizes by either the younger or older participants. For critical print size (CPS), older participants were better at reading small print sizes at a regular reading speed when the text was set in KBH Text than when it was set in Gill Sans. The findings indicate that older readers are more sensitive to font legibility differences than younger readers.
We discuss the implications of different reading scenarios putting different demands on the fonts as well as the perspective of older readers benefitting from certain visual qualities of fonts.
Beier, S. & Oderkerk, C.A.T. (2019) ‘The effect of age and font on reading ability’, Visible Language, 53.3, 51–69.
Presentation at ATypI
Age-related deficits and their effects on reading
Older readers are more affected by suboptimal designs of typefaces, are more easily distracted by irrelevant elements in the text, are more sensitive to low contrast between foreground and background, and have greater difficulty tuning into a specific typeface style. With growing age, some level of cognitive decrease often follows, which is associated with a decline in processing speed and a general deficit in cognitive flexibility.
In addition, many elderly people suffer from some form of visual impairment.
In spite of the growing number of older citizens, and in spite of the fact that many of the reading-related deficits can be met through the right setting of typography, these issues are rarely considered in design. This presentation will show new scientific findings on the legibility of typefaces for elderly readers and will suggest ways of improving visual acuity for this target group.
The talk is available on YouTube >>