A new typeface to ease legibility for the partially sighted, including applications such as mobile phone text messages, has been designed by the Royal National Institute for the Blind. The organisation has worked with Laker Sharville Design Associates and London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital.
The Tiresias font, named after the mythological Greek character who was struck blind, features characters designed to achieve maximum differentiation between each other.
Dr John Gill, RNIB chief scientist, says the standard method of maximising the impact of fonts is to add weight, but this process crowds the gaps between the edges of each character. “To maintain legibility we have adjusted each character accordingly, for example, to distinguish between a lower case ‘l’, a numeric ‘one’ or the letter ‘I’,” he adds.
Three typefaces form the new range: PCfont for computers; Infofont, for viewing from a distance of between 30-100cm, for notices in galleries and museums; and Signfont, for public notices viewed from longer distances.
Gill suggests increasing use of e-mail addresses – where lowercase letters and numbers are juxtaposed randomly and can be difficult to decipher – and mobile phone technology using text messages could allow major opportunities for the use of Tiresias.
The RNIB has received interest in the font from the telecommunications industry and financial institutions seeking to use it in cash dispensers. It also aims to promote its use in signage, ticket machines and labelling.
Based on principles of optics rather than typography, Tiresias was developed from its use as a TV subtitle and teletext font, which demands as clear a typeface as possible due to the distance between viewer and screen. It now features 346 characters and can be used for most European languages.