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Information design expert joins the Department of Typography

Professor Alison Black

'Having completed my postdoctoral work at Reading over 20 years ago, I am delighted to be returning to the department to work on real-world information issues.' Professor Alison Black

The Department of Typography are pleased to welcome Professor Alison Black, who joins the University direct from the information industry where she worked for over 20 years.

Professor Black is an expert in User-Centred Design (UCD), which is an approach to design that grounds the process in information about the people who will use the product. UCD processes focus on users through the planning, design and development of a product.

On her return to the academic world Professor Black plans to continue bridging research and practice, with research that addresses real-world communication needs in areas such as health promotion and care, digital inclusion, independent living for the elderly and climate change.

She said: "Having completed my postdoctoral work at Reading over 20 years ago, I am delighted to be returning to the department to work on real-world information issues. These are areas where corporate and regulatory agendae influence decision-making, and where there are often a range of technology options, each with specific strengths and weaknesses. The challenge of user-centred design is to navigate through the constraints and options, and to develop solutions that genuinely reflect the capabilities and needs of the different kinds of people who will use them."

After studying cognitive psychology, first at Sussex and then at Cambridge, Professor Black became interested in how people use information, and how technology might support them to find information more easily and understand and use it better. This interest became the focus of her postdoctoral work at Reading (1987-90).

"As the opportunities to access and interact with information suddenly expanded with the world-wide web I went on to put research into practice, leading the human factors team in the London office of the international design consultancy IDEO (1990-2000) and working on projects ranging from public-facing information on transport systems to people's private notes, memos and communications on personal devices such as mobile phones. I then ran my own consultancy focusing on how printed documents and fixed and mobile technologies can be designed to support people's working and personal lives."

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