Stretched and repeated, Dysfluent Mono is a typeface that embodies what it means to have a stammer
After launching Dysfluent magazine a year ago, the publication’s editor talks us through his continued quest to better understand his own speech.
- Ayla Angelos
- 13 January 2021
Last year, Conor Foran and Bart Rzeznik launched Dysfluent, an independent magazine about stammers. Providing a platform for people to share honest stories about their experiences with it – whether they’re “awkward, funny, infuriating or heart-warming,” says editor Conor – the debut issue was an immensely personal endeavour that soon evolved into a bespoke typeface named Dysfluent Mono.
Conor has stammered his entire life. After studying visual communication in NCAD, Dublin and moving to London two years ago, he began working as a junior designer at 4Creative. Bart is a graphic design graduate from Camberwell College of Arts and a freelance project manager. “We’re actually a couple and our collaboration for Dysfluent was borne out of that,” Conor says, noting how his own personal experiences on the topic of stutters plus Bart’s affinity for printed matter drove the process. What initially started as a university project “in that typical university attempt to work on something personal and unique” soon turned into a remedial outlet. A form of self-therapy, as Conor puts it, as for the first time he began investigating his speech.
Conor has always shown an interest in typography and the ways in which sound is visualised through design, two elements that spearheaded the creation for Dysfluent – a name that’s similar to the term disfluency, meaning the disruption in the ongoing flow of speech. This idea to represent his stammer in a visual language formed the basis of the project, where topics of stammering pride and acceptance proved just how much disfluency needn’t be stigmatised in wider parts of society. “Visually representing my stammer by repeated or stretching the letters seemed defiant at the time, almost as if I had given the middle finger to these words and letters that cased me so much grief for so many years,” he tells It’s Nice That. “Rendering my own name in a way I ‘recognised’ helped me to stop fearing it, as so many people who stammer can find it tricky to say their own name.” Conor still finds himself stammering, “of course,” but the process of making Dysfluent alleviated a lot of the judgement associated with it. “I’ve become much more open abut my speech; it’s allowed me to rethink how many stammer defines me, if at all.”
This personal quest to dive deep into the visual tones of his stammer led to the creation of its very own typeface, one that “emulates the voice of the speaker”. As mentioned, the font features signature stretches and repeating turns, used to evoke the definition of a stammer or stutter – that which is neurological yet presents itself as something that’s physical to those non-stammering. “A lot of the stammering experience is owed to feelings of shame, guilt and embarrassment,” says Conner. “It is a massively personal experience as stammering can differ from person to person.”
More than just a literal translation of stammered speech – which by no doubt is a hard topic to materialise – it’s also an interpretation of it, pulled from the founder’s own experiences as well as through conversations with those featured in the magazine. “Typography in general does this; there are so many sounds that we make that are not explicitly represented through letterforms,” he says. “Instead, Dysfluent Mono embodies what it means to have a stammer, as it helps deliver these intensely personal and revealing interviews in the magazine.” Utilising a typeface that is multifaceted in its approach only heightens these design intentions, and allows room to express personal narratives and the voice of the interviewee at hand.
One of Conor’s biggest goals was to have Dysfluent available in public settings, like magazine shops, in order to make the information more accessible for those who stammer. Having achieved that goal, his next quest is to make the typeface usable for outside sources – this does cause some issues, however, as it’s very much linked to the context of the magazine. A few tweaks, he says, and it might be ready for outside use. “While still very much work-in-progress and an evolving project as I learn more about type design, I created a system of letterforms which only touch the surface of this interpretation of stammered speech.” Toying with distortion and legibility, the concept of reading letterforms is what sits at the base of this experimentation.
After extensive research and experimentation, Conor realised that the best means of visualising a stammer is through conventional type design, achieved through repetitions, elongations and blocks that are not too dissimilar from the phasing of the moon near completion. “To see the typeface in this way means it is grounded in a positive interpretation, instead of being viewed as fragmented type which perpetuates the concept of stammered speech as inherently broken,” he concludes. “Above all, my aim with Dysfluent Mono is to create something that speaks to people and at the same time is a beautiful thing in its own right.”
GalleryDysfluent magazine: Dysfluent Mono. Created by Conor Foran and Bart Rzeznik. (Copyright © Dysfluent magazine, 2020).
About the Author
Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she was interim online editor in 2022/2023 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima.