“The key is irregularity”: This Arabic font is made to accommodate dyslexic readers

Leo Burnett Dubai agency has partnered with Omantel telecom network to create the Maqroo font, which translates to “readable”.

11 April 2024

“Arabic is one of the oldest and most beautiful languages in the world. With 12 million words it is also the most complex, making it even harder for those with dyslexia to learn it,” says Abdo Mohamed, art director at creative agency Leo Burnett Dubai and founder of Boharat type foundry. When digging into this fact, the agency couldn’t find any widely-used dyslexia-friendly Arabic fonts, despite over 8.4 million people in the MENA region identifying as having the learning difficulty, Abdo says. To remedy this, Leo Burnett partnered with Omantel telecommunications company in Oman to create a font that accommodated the needs of dyslexic readers.

Preliminary research into the font was conducted in close collaboration with dyslexic individuals. The research helped the team to analyse and understand an array of Arabic fonts – they were asked to read, draw and sketch what they perceived when reading various fonts, and their stress levels were tested and evaluated; this helped the team to identify characteristics of fonts that work, and the ones that didn’t. The collaborative aspect didn’t end there, it was a continual process with every one of the Maqroo drafts being tested for readability by the volunteers.


Leo Burnett Dubai / Omantel: Maqroo (Copyright © Leo Burnett Dubai / Omantel , 2024)

One of the most interesting discoveries was that for many dyslexic individuals consistency in ligatures, serifs and other aspects of fonts doesn’t actually help readability. Arabic letters share a lot of the same structure, base bodies and inner spaces, and this is one factor in making them quite hard to distinguish. And so, the team realised that in forcing irregularities – like making inner spaces different sizes – they could ensure glyphs are easier to tell apart. The team also made use of other distinct aspects of Arabic typography like nuqtas (dots) and tashkeels (marks), making them bigger and adding irregularities in shape and size to make them more distinguishable. Each glyph, therefore, is “distinctively recognisable through their irregularities”, the Maqroo website states.

Abdo has demonstrated how these irregularities work in a series of motion assets. In one the font is shown without differing inner spaces, and then after with varying inner spaces. Overlapping each inner space, the important difference between 98% similarity in space has compared to 58% similarity is revealed. While Abdo is aware that some may perceive the changes as “inconsistent design”, he’s aware of how such small details can make such a large impact to those with dyslexia.

Now, Omantel’s plan is to apply the font across its digital platforms like websites and apps, as well as printed material, including it in all customer touch points. In the future, it would also like to create an open source font for other brands and members of the Arabic design community to use, as a means of bringing more “inclusivity” into type design and digital communication, Abdo says. The long-term plan is to have fonts used in educational institutions to ensure the next generation of students have material that accommodates their needs.

GalleryLeo Burnett Dubai / Omantel: Maqroo (Copyright © Leo Burnett Dubai / Omantel , 2024)

Leo Burnett Dubai / Omantel: Maqroo (Copyright © Leo Burnett Dubai / Omantel , 2024)

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Leo Burnett Dubai / Omantel: Maqroo (Copyright © Leo Burnett Dubai / Omantel , 2024)

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English Literature and History, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.

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