How Bionic Reading Could Transform Type Design

Thanks to good old technology, everything is getting faster. As a consequence, attention spans are dwindling quicker than you can finish reading this sentence. If we haven’t lost you yet, you’re about to see why the wording of that sentence was important.

In the rapidly evolving digital world, everything from shopping and eating to creating and communicating has become simpler and easier, but if there’s one thing that hasn’t changed, it’s reading. Think about it; ebooks are great for convenience and versatility, but just because they’ve taken paperback books into the digital world, doesn’t mean they take any less time to read.

In just the last few weeks, a Swiss typography designer is making a strong effort to prove that maybe a high tech solution isn’t the answer to better concentration and retention. He’s created the Bionic Reading system — and it’s already got the whole world’s attention.

What is Bionic Reading?
Bionic Reading revises text by emphasizing the most concise parts of a word by using bold type. In doing so, it allows the eye to focus only on them, giving the brain the opportunity to quickly fill in the rest of the word. The system’s founder, Renato Casutt, believes that by creating “artificial fixation points,” it minimizes staring on the eyes while retaining understanding, helping individuals read and comprehend a text faster and with less effort.  

Casutt and his team have studied various research in the field of text and comprehensive with specific eye movement data dating all the way back to 1905. And while they may not have discovered the first system to support people as they read (i.e. speed reading), they may be on to something more valuable.

“Bionic Reading does not have to be learned, because it happens intuitively. There are users who can read faster with BR, but there are also readers who have dyslexia that can read better. And then there are readers who, professionally, should read more focused [while using Bionic Reading],” Casutt says. 

How BR is Being Perceived by Readers Everywhere 
Just this past week, the internet has been blowing up with users raving about the new reading system. UX writer, Juan Buis, tweeted an image in support of the tool with the caption, “It’s incredible how reading this feels like finally unlocking 100 percent of your brain.” As of the wiring of this article, that tweet had over 116K likes and 17K retweets. 

The feedback has been flooding the comments section on Twitter as well. One user tweeted, “Idk if I’m reading faster with BR or my mind is tricking into believing it..” while someone else posted, “Bionic reading has my brain on X-Games mode… SOMEBODY MAKE THIS A CHROME EXTENSION ASAP.” 

The initial reception by those with learning disabilities and low-level reading capabilities (two demographics that make up 20% of the US population and 20-25% of the adult population, respectively) has been all positive too. The feedback the BR team has received indicates that their system has helped people with dyslexia immediately understand the content of various texts the first time they read them, which was almost impossible prior to its release. 

One user said “Being dyslexic this really helps me reading a lot faster than I normally do. Keep up the great work and hope to see you on Safari soon.”  Another saw major results for a friend: “I’m a pretty fast reader, but this is super cool. Showed it to a friend with dyslexia and her reading speed increased 3x. 

What Does it Mean for the Future of Type Design? 
Currently, the Bionic Reading system is available as an API (Application Programming Interface) or SaaS (Software as a Service) for designers and developers to incorporate into their apps, while a now-viral sample text is also making its way around social platforms — like Twitter, LinkedIn, and more.

While BR doesn’t quite make sense for shorter texts and there will likely be issues in existing uses of bolded text typefaces, there is a ton of potential for long-form copy. Blogs, websites, white papers, etc. could all see the impacts of an easier and more digestible way to read — benefiting marketers and consumers alike.

In the meantime, if you’re curious to see what it’s all about, you can drop in your own documents into the Bionic Reading converter to try it out for yourself. As for us, you know our team at Assemble will be staying on top of the trend to make sure you don’t miss out on a new opportunity to connect with your audiences. Contact us at any time to learn more.