An Illustrated Book Looks at Dyslexia in a New Light

By Charles Purdy

Based in Bangalore, India, Param Jain is a designer and illustrator, as well as the author of A Mind of Gold. The book, which is intended to help parents understand not only the challenges but also the beauty of dyslexia, began as a student project before earning Jain a place as a finalist in the Adobe Design Achievement Awards—and now it’s on its way to being published.

A Mind of Gold aims to let parents know that dyslexia can be seen in a positive light.

From a very young age, Jain was interested in art and design and how they could be used to communicate—before, he says, he was even able to verbalize the concept of “visual communication.” Eventually, that interest led him to Bangalore’s Srishti Institute of Art, Design, and Technology, from which he graduated in 2016.

It was in his final year of university, in a course on branding, that the idea for A Mind of Gold was born. Jain and some of his classmates were looking for a product or service to rebrand for a project, and they landed on dyslexia—in part because of the rebranding challenge it posed. 

“It was a case where just a new logo wouldn’t help,” says Jain. “It was far larger than just a new business card or a new website.”

A REALIZATION

The second phase of the student project involved speaking with counselors, special educators, scientists, and mental health professionals, to better understand dyslexia and related conditions. “Along the way,” says Jain, “I realized that I was mildly dyslexic and had never been diagnosed.”

He continues, “Then I became very much interested in the role of parents in raising kids with dyslexia. I started looking at what was already available in terms of support and materials for parents out there…and there was a lot of practical advice, like ‘If your child isn’t doing well in school, get them extra tuition or get them tools like a reading ruler or colored markers.’ These things help with symptoms, but nothing was speaking clearly to what dyslexia is—and my research led me to believe that it could actually be a boon as well, that it need not be looked at negatively all the time.”

Jain created all of the book’s illustrations and lettering by hand; then he finished them in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator

After deciding to create a book aimed at parents of children with dyslexia, Jain’s next challenge was figuring out how to structure the information and determine the perspective from which he would be speaking to parents. He explains, “I’m not a scientist or a neurosurgeon or an educator. But I realized that, a lot of the time when parents are made aware of this entire new world of learning differences and dyslexia, a problem is that things are framed very clinically…it’s a diagnosis, and it sounds tragic, with connotations of disease and suffering.”

Jain decided he could counter that with a book that used easily accessible language and a more upbeat tone. Jain says, “Dyslexia need not be grim.”

The first section of A Mind of Gold tells the story of Rishi, a young child with dyslexia. 

THE BEAUTY OF DYSLEXIA

A next step in creating A Mind of Gold, Jain says was figuring out the content, as well as the book’s tone and its look and feel. Jain says, “I couldn’t really assign a particular style to dyslexia, or represent dyslexia as looking a certain way, because dyslexia is different for every individual. So I decided against having a rigid visual theme and put content first. I also didn’t want a book that was too dense, so I broke down information so that every page is somewhat self-contained, kind of a poster in itself.”

The book offers a historical context for dyslexia, as well as practical advice for parents. 

Jain drew and painted all of the pages by hand, because he wanted parents to feel a personal connection to the book—to feel as if Jain was sitting with them and doodling or sketching out his explanations. Then he brought his work into Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, where he finished drawings and brought some consistency to the book’s color palette. Finally, he used Adobe InDesign to collect the pages into a printable book format.

GAINING RECOGNITION

As a senior at university, Jain was made aware of the Adobe Design Achievement Awards. The entire book was not ready when he entered, in 2016, but he submitted five illustrations from the book as an example of the project.

Since Jain was chosen as a finalist, mentors from Adobe have been helping him to refine the book’s content—he has also been letting parents and educators review it, and sending copies to well-known people with dyslexia and asking if they might be interested in writing a foreword. Currently, Jain is talking to an agent and looking at several routes to publishing.


June 6, 2019