Talk | Dynamic Font Day 2023

Visual Prosody

Ann Bessemans
Hasselt University
Hasselt, Belgium

Communication goes bad when it lacks social connectedness. Speakers who make eye contact, proper voice inflections are more effective communicators. Speaker effectiveness is guaranteed by speaking emoting and expressively with people, versus dryly. Type is not as expressive as our voices. With our voices we can say particular words softer or louder, mumble them, or shout them, dwell for an extra beat on a fascinating idea, or raise your pitch to express excitement. With rare exception, the words in a composed sentence are completely uniform in weight and size, as if to convey a monotone. The monotone of type leads to problems in reading comprehension. Who hasn’t had the experience on their email being misinterpreted because the receiver didn’t hear the tone in your voice as you wrote it?

In the creation of a tool to teach kids how to read expressively, we have already come a long way. Our creative artifacts comprised volume, duration, pitch and pause of speech prosody to assist in reading aloud but also for indicating important units of a sentence while preserving a natural reading (aloud) in general. We were able to show that we can improve the reading aloud as well as the comprehension if we visualize prosodic variation. And just like making prosody visual, emotions have the potential to become visualized within a text as well.
This talk will investigate what we can do to make type more expressive and emotive, and report on studies.