Hand lettered words are not only supposed to look interesting, but they also need to be readable. You could spend hours making a cool piece of lettering, but if it’s hard to read, then your hard work could all have been for nothing.
Hard to read falls within two categories when it comes to lettering, individual letters can be hard to read, or the layout of the lettering can make a phrase or sentence hard to read. Sometimes both of these things can happen at once, making the lettering super difficult to understand.
When beginning hand lettering there’s a good chance at least some of your lettering practice will be hard to read. This is because it does take time to get the shape of letters right, and to get spacing right, but to also learn about the order our eyes see things in when we read.
Designer Daniel Britton intentionally created an alphabet that would make reading a challenge for a college project. He wanted to bring more awareness to Dyslexia, and provide an example of what it’s like for a dyslexic person to read. He took away parts of letters to create a whole new alphabet that slows the reading pace of a non-dyslexic person significantly.
Think about how frustrating it is having to work out what is being quoted in the image below. This is definitely not something you want people viewing your lettering to feel, unless that’s the aim of your project.
Daniel has made quite big changes to the alphabet to create his lettering project, and your work might not include such significant changes as that. It is however always important to consider whether others will be able to read your work without too much difficulty. This doesn’t rule out being able to experiment with hand lettering, but you should be considerate of others. People are also often always in a rush nowadays, and if they have to spend more than a few seconds working something out, they’re likely to move on. Some will enjoy the challenge of decoding a piece of lettering, but it’s not everybody’s cup of tea.
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if something is hard to read if you’ve been working on it a while. In those cases step back, take a break for at least half an hour and come back to it. If you’re still not sure, you can always ask a friend or family member for their opinion.
When drawing your lettering out consider things like ‘Are these letters a little too squashed?’, or ‘Is this script a little too loose flowing?’ and ‘Does this phrase flow naturally, or have I got to hunt for the word that should come next?’ By just keeping thoughts like these in the back of your mind, you are not likely to run the risk of making your lettering hard to read.
If you would like to see more of Daniels Dyslexia design work you can view it on his website. Daniel is also currently running a crowd funding campaign so that he can create a Dyslexia awareness pack to be used within schools. So please feel free to check that out, and also to share the link with anyone else who you feel it might be relevant to.