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The Outbreak Poems — artistic emissions in a pandemic

Snellen Optotype Font with Upper and Lowercase characters

SnellenMK optotype font. Uppercase, lowercase and symbols to test your eyes. (zoom)
SnellenMK optotype font. Uppercase, lowercase and symbols to test your eyes. (zoom)

In the process of designing my Snellen Eye Chart typographical posters, I came across the Snellen font by Andrew Howlett. I wasn't happy with all the letters, so I made attempts at giving the font an update. I call this redesign "Snellen MK", to avoid conflict with Howlett's "Snellen".

Not being a font designer, I will likely get myself into trouble.

snellen chart posters

While making my Snellen chart series, I entered the rabbit hole of optotype fonts ... and I can't get out!

A technically accurate Snellen chart using four genetic bases A T G C rendered as optotypes. The chart begins with the start codon ATG and ends in the stop codon TGA, which appears only once in the chart. Print at 16 in × 24 in. (BUY ARTWORK)
A technically accurate Snellen chart using the nautical flag alphabet rendered as optotypes. Print at 16 in × 24 in. (BUY ARTWORK)

The charts don't necessarily use the latest version of my Snellen font design, which fluctuates as my mood about some of the letters changes.

optotype fonts

The optotype requirement is that letters be designed on a 5 × 5 grid, and have constant stroke width. This means that both lower and upper case letters need to share the grid and stroke. To stay compatible with the eyechart paradigm, letters should be as obvious as possible.

Lorrie Frear's article What are Optotypes? Eye Charts in Focus is a great read about optotypes and eye charts.

Snellen Optotype Letter Design

uppercase

The uppercase letter design uses Herman Snellen's original chart as inspiration.

I have modified the design by Andrew Howlett (see below) for some letters. All the changes are relatively minor: more serifs and consistent stroke width for bars on R and K.

lowercase

The lowercase characters should be considered experimental.

The progress of my redesign is shown below. I would greatly appreciate feedback and suggestions!

The distribution contains both Andrew's version and my redesign.

version v7.002 11-Jul-2019

Tidied all letter forms with Fontlab 6.

Snellen optotype font (version v7.002 11-Jul-2019) that includes both upper and lower case characters, along with most punctuation and some symbols. Based on design by Andrew Howlett. (zoom, download SnellenMK optotype font)

version 7 — 6 Feb 2017

Fixed g and e. Thanks to Makeesha Fisher for suggestions.

Snellen optotype font (mk.v.7). Original design by Andrew Howlett (left) and my redesign (right), which includes both upper and lowercase letters as well as digits and symbols. (zoom, download SnellenMK optotype font)

version 6 — 5 Feb 2017

Adjusted serifs on f, j, l, o, t to extend the full width of the grid. Added a lot more symbols.

Snellen optotype font (mk.v.6). Original design by Andrew Howlett (left) and my redesign (right), which includes both upper and lowercase letters as well as digits and symbols. (zoom, download SnellenMK optotype font)

version 5 — 4 Feb 2017

Snellen optotype font (mk.v.5). Original design by Andrew Howlett (left) and my redesign (right), which includes both upper and lowercase letters as well as digits and symbols. (zoom, download SnellenMK optotype font)

version 4 — 23 Feb 2017

SnellenMK optotype font (mk.v.4). Original design by Andrew Howlett (left) and my redesign (right), which includes both upper and lowercase letters as well as digits. (zoom)

version 3 — 22 Feb 2017

I'm exploring the lowercase characters. I don't know what I want to do with them. Make this into a more standard font in which lowercase letters are smaller, so that letters can fit their roles clearly when text is set in sentence case, or fill out the full optotype grid.

SnellenMK optotype font (mk.v.3). Original design by Andrew Howlett (left) and my redesign (right), which includes both upper and lowercase letters. (zoom)

version 2 — 22 Feb 2017

Flushed out some inconsistencies in the uppercase characters. Added serifs to more letters.

Now all the letters occuppy the full 5 × 5 grid, including the I, whose serifs were widened to allow this. While this new uppercase I isn't as pretty as the old one, it makes the entire typeface more consistent to its optotype roots.

Still struggling with the G. In the original version, the descending stroke was cut off in the middle of a grid, which I didn't like.

The S has been fixed—thanks to Elanor Lutz for feedback.

I've color coded the characters slightly differently, drawing attention to ones that I feel need more thought.

The lowercase characters aren't color coded (yet) because ... most of them need help. Primarily, I'm vacillating between making them fill the full size of the 5 × 5 square, just like the uppercase characters, and keeping them confined to a 4 × 4 square, which incurs loss of legibility. If I make the letters the same size, it will be impossible to distinguish lowercase and uppercase characters some cases (e.g. c, i). Perhaps this is desired?

SnellenMK optotype font (mk.v.2). Original design by Andrew Howlett (left) and my redesign (right), which includes both upper and lowercase letters. (zoom)

version 1 — 22 Feb 2017

First attempt at lowercase characters.

SnellenMK optotype font (mk.v.1). Original design by Andrew Howlett (left) and my redesign (right), which includes both upper and lowercase letters. (zoom, download font)

"This data might give you a migrane"

Tue 06-10-2020

An in-depth look at my process of reacting to a bad figure — how I design a poster and tell data stories.

A poster of high BMI and obesity prevalence for 185 countries.

He said, he said — a word analysis of the 2020 Presidential Debates

Thu 01-10-2020

Building on the method I used to analyze the 2008, 2012 and 2016 U.S. Presidential and Vice Presidential debates, I explore word usagein the 2020 Debates between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

Analysis of word usage by parts of speech for Trump and Biden reveals insight into each candidate.

Points of Significance celebrates 50th column

Mon 24-08-2020

We are celebrating the publication of our 50th column!

To all our coauthors — thank you and see you in the next column!

Nature Methods Points of Significance: Celebrating 50 columns of clear explanations of statistics. (read)

Uncertainty and the management of epidemics

Mon 24-08-2020

When modelling epidemics, some uncertainties matter more than others.

Public health policy is always hampered by uncertainty. During a novel outbreak, nearly everything will be uncertain: the mode of transmission, the duration and population variability of latency, infection and protective immunity and, critically, whether the outbreak will fade out or turn into a major epidemic.

The uncertainty may be structural (which model?), parametric (what is $R_0$?), and/or operational (how well do masks work?).

This month, we continue our exploration of epidemiological models and look at how uncertainty affects forecasts of disease dynamics and optimization of intervention strategies.

Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Uncertainty and the management of epidemics. (read)

We show how the impact of the uncertainty on any choice in strategy can be expressed using the Expected Value of Perfect Information (EVPI), which is the potential improvement in outcomes that could be obtained if the uncertainty is resolved before making a decision on the intervention strategy. In other words, by how much could we potentially increase effectiveness of our choice (e.g. lowering total disease burden) if we knew which model best reflects reality?

This column has an interactive supplemental component (download code) that allows you to explore the impact of uncertainty in $R_0$ and immunity duration on timing and size of epidemic waves and the total burden of the outbreak and calculate EVPI for various outbreak models and scenarios.

Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Uncertainty and the management of epidemics. (Interactive supplemental materials)

Bjørnstad, O.N., Shea, K., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2020) Points of significance: Uncertainty and the management of epidemics. Nature Methods 17.

Bjørnstad, O.N., Shea, K., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2020) Points of significance: Modeling infectious epidemics. Nature Methods 17:455–456.

Bjørnstad, O.N., Shea, K., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2020) Points of significance: The SEIRS model for infectious disease dynamics. Nature Methods 17:557–558.

Cover of Nature Genetics August 2020

Mon 03-08-2020

Our design on the cover of Nature Genetics's August 2020 issue is “Dichotomy of Chromatin in Color” . Thanks to Dr. Andy Mungall for suggesting this terrific title.

Dichotomy of Chromatin in Color. Nature Genetics, August 2020 issue. (read more)

The cover design accompanies our report in the issue Gagliardi, A., Porter, V.L., Zong, Z. et al. (2020) Analysis of Ugandan cervical carcinomas identifies human papillomavirus clade–specific epigenome and transcriptome landscapes. Nature Genetics 52:800–810.