Dyslexia is a subject which has been severely overlooked and under-publicised in today’s society. The official definition of dyslexia according to the British Dyslexia Association can be defined as;
“…A specific learning difficulty that mainly affects the development of literacy and language related skills. It is likely to be present at birth and to be life-long in its effects. It is characterised by difficulties with phonological processing, rapid naming, working memory, processing speed, and the automatic development of skills that may not match up to an individual’s other cognitive abilities” – British Dyslexia Association (2016).
Although it has been perceived as a difficulty it is not a disability. Those who possess this ability can even be perceived as super humans (a term I’m coined from the para-Olympics) due to their asset to think laterally whilst simultaneously being highly & distinctively creative. Dyslexia comes in all shapes & sizes and is not a cut-and-dry-one-size-fits-all type of ability. Its severity will vary from person to person and is something which should be celebrated due to its abundance of benefits. Legendary Designer Jim Rokos who also has dyslexia aims to champion this asset by curating an exceptional exhibition at Design Junction this year. Opening on 22 September this exhibition will showcase over 10 designers together with talks and book signings during the event.
With designers such as Sebastian Conran, Bethan Laura Wood and Kristjana S Williams (to name but a few) I interviewed Jim to find out a bit more about the subject, the exhibition and how the design industry perceives this super power.
Q: How did the collaboration with Dyslexic Design and Design Junction come about?
A: I asked Design-Junction show director Deborah Spenser if she would give me some space for the exhibition and incredibly, she agreed. I did not know at the time that Deborah was dyslexic, which is why this is such a personal project for her. Incredible things like this have been happening all the way through this project – flamboyant environment designer Ab Rogers is now designing our exhibition interior, he is also dyslexic.
Q: How did you come up with concept for the exhibition around the subject matter?
A: I wanted to find a way to demonstrate how it is advantageous to be dyslexic.
A: I was looking for objects by dyslexic designers whose works demonstrate some of the gifts that often come with dyslexia: lateral thinking, three-dimensional thinking and visual thinking. I am also in love with the pieces on show.
A: This is a celebration of dyslexia. I would like dyslexics to feel encouraged and proud, and others to discover that dyslexia is a gift.
Q: At what age were you diagnosed with dyslexia and what challenges have you faced since?
A: I think I was 11 or 12. Schools have a long way to go until they implement a way of teaching that grows dyslexia’s gifts. Decades later, I am still undoing the damage to my self-confidence caused by my schooling. In fact, creating this show is helping my self-confidence recover.
A: The biggest challenge by far was to find our manufacturer, who is reliable, and will accept our small orders and deliver the exceptional quality we need. Who knows if this relates to dyslexia? The dyslexic mind is universal – it gives a complete worldview. Having always been dyslexic, it is impossible to say which challenges come with dyslexia and which are just life.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?
A: Creativity is my passion.
Q: How does the design industry as a whole view & treat those with dyslexia in your view?
A: The design industry understands that dyslexia comes hand in hand with abilities that are advantageous. Studios in the know, seek a mix of dyslexics and non-dyslexics for a full range of talents.
Q: What is one thing you’d like others to know about dyslexia?
A: It is a less common brain structure and a normal part of neurodiversity. Its presence is an advantage among groups of people offering a range of attributes in a population. It is not a disability.
A: Spend some time learning what dyslexia is. Discover that it is a processing difference and you can find your own unique way of going about things that is different to most. Learn that you have a rare perspective. As you discover your own personal way of doing things, you will enjoy your gift more and more.