Dyslexic Design, a recent exhibition in London, makes the case that a disability can, in fact, be a gift that is a catalyst for innovative thinking.
A river is a barricade for those who can’t swim, until someone makes a bridge. Stairs are an impediment for those who can’t walk, until someone designs a ramp. Reading is an obstacle for those who can’t see, until someone invents Braille. When the world presents itself as an obstruction, the vision to see it otherwise kicks into gear. Dyslexic Design, a recent exhibition in support of the British Dyslexia Association, takes this attitude, making the case that a disability can in fact be a gift that is a catalyst for innovative thinking.
Dyslexia is a common learning disorder that usually manifests itself when children begin to read. The problem is not a matter of intelligence, but of cognition: somewhere between the eye and the brain, the symbols of language break down, obscuring their intended meaning. While there are fonts like Dyslexie or Lexia Readable that are created to help people with dyslexia read, the typeface used for Dyslexic Design’s graphic identity does the opposite. British graphic designer Daniel Britton created the lettering to replicate for non-dyslexics the arduous experience of parsing words on a page when living with dyslexia. The typeface reverses the conventions of design to make life more challenging, rather than easier, and Britton hopes it will elicit a greater awareness of the difficulties those with dyslexia face.
When one door closes, another opens, and the designers in the exhibition demonstrate a lateral thinking that can turn our assumption of, for example, how a vase should sit literally on its side. From a design perspective, there is no better way to come up with new ideas than to see the world as a problem to be solved, and for people with dyslexia, this is what they face every day.
Terence Dick is an art critic and visual arts editor at