See Word Design Cincinnati

Reneé Seward, Founder, See Word Design

Reneé Seward graduated from the Graphic Design program at the University of Cincinnati in 2002. Today she is an Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of the Communication Design program at UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. She has used her design and research skill to launch See Word Design, a company that focuses on developing digital and physical tools that seek to address society’s literacy problem.

How did the company come about?

I worked through the university’s Venture Lab at the 1819 innovation hub. They gave me funding and an EIR (Entrepreneur-in-Residence) who helped me see how the technology could be launched into a company. Her name is Nancy Koors and we are now co-founders.

How did you come up with the idea for the technology?

I was in graduate school and the son of one of my good friends was having problems learning due to dyslexia. He hypothesized for himself that the reason he couldn’t learn and pass was because of the layout of the page. I thought that if I could use my skills as a graphic designer to help him get over these hurdles, I was all for it. I began researching the idea. While it wasn’t the page layout that was the issue, I did realize that there are strategies that can be used to teach learning skills.

I worked with a lot of schools to identify issues and I created tools that they tested. I was able to create my first product called See Words School that is targeted to pre-K. From that technology we worked forward, creating a new product called See Words Anywhere that is targeted to any age group.

How does the product work?

Let’s say you are on a website and see an article you want to read but you have some reading struggles. You can click the See Words Anywhere web browser extension and it will re-render the text in one of the interactive, phonetic literacy fonts we’ve created. As you’re reading across the screen and run across a word or grouping of letters that you’re struggling to decode, you simply scroll over those letters and you will receive a visual and auditory cue that will help you in decoding the word. (Click here to see a demo.)

Renee is a Cincy Innovates winner and has been acknowledged as a Rising Tech star by ComSpark, awarded by the Business Courier Best Software of the Year, and the University of Cincinnati Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year.

Recently, a font her team has designed called SeeType just won an STA award, and she has given a TEDx talk on Eradication Literacy Through the Power of a Font.

Additionally, she is working on a collaborative research team awarded a grant from the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders to develop a tool to help correct speech problems in children.