School of Communication and Digital Content


Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design (MFA)


Rachel Dugan


Disfluent Fonts, Multi-modal Literacy, Educational Text Design, The Book of Kells, Illuminated Manuscripts, Graphic Design of Books


Art and Design | Instructional Media Design


The graphic design of a book affects the way the reader receives and processes information. However, design is often focused on aesthetic principles and traditional wisdom, not taking into account how design aspects affect cognitive processes and educational outcomes. This thesis examines the efficacy of page design elements on educational outcomes, specifically disfluent fonts, handwritten fonts and multi-modal design. The traditional wisdom of typography has maintained that the faster the human eye can read a text, the more suited it is for reading materials. However, recent research suggests that disfluent, or difficult-to-read fonts result in significantly improved reading comprehension and retention (Chih-Ming Chen & Yu-Ju Lin 553; Diemand-Yauman, et al. 114; Faber, et al. 914; French, M. M. J., et al. 301; Geller, Jason, et al.1109; Halin, et al. 31; Oppenheimer D.M & Frank M.D. 1178). This body of research suggests that certain visual disfluencies enhance educational outcomes, improving retention and comprehension by encouraging the reader to mentally process material in a slower and deeper way. What if texts that are easily read are easily forgotten? Medieval manuscript design encouraged a reading culture nurtured by deep, contemplative and slow reading methods, enhanced by semiotic images, text and design. The modern book designer, inspired by medieval manuscripts, and their modern incarnation, the graphic novel, can enhance educational outcomes through design that elicits a deep cognitive processing. The aim of this thesis is to present evidence that this inspiration combined with difficult-to-read fonts and multi-modal design can enhance educational outcomes, specifically in the American high school literature classroom.

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