The Typography & Graphic Communication Research Division investigates ‘design for reading’, encompassing history, theory and practice. The many strands of our work combine to inform and define our discipline.
Our research excellence has been acknowledged through funding from research councils, charities, learned bodies, government and industry. We were ranked first in our sector in the UK’s periodic research assessment (REF) in 2014.
Design research and knowledge transfer with everyday relevance
Much of our research focuses on how the everyday information that people encounter can be made more usable. It is drawn on by industry, government and other public bodies to help improve their effectiveness.
In a world of increasingly digital information, our research and methods are developed to examine the interface between people’s needs and organisations’ information delivery. Our Centre for Information Design Research builds on stakeholder and reader engagement to draw together organisational, technology and user needs.
Our research in type design has global relevance and contributed to the development of resources that enable computer-based texts for many communities. Whether Arabic newspapers and scholarly Greek or Indian scripts on mobile devices, these applications have stemmed from our close study of historic letterforms and long-standing collaborations with industry.
Research that defines new histories and understanding
The division is recognised as a centre for research in letterform and type design history and the history of printing processes, including lithography and stencilling.
We engage with the materiality of designed artefacts to define new histories, working with collections to build understanding through physical analysis and interpretation, and reconstruct historical equipment, processes and techniques.
Our researchers collaborate with curators of renowned collections – including the British Library, the Bodleian, Tate, Science Museum and the V&A – and bring insights from our own distinctive collections and archives, which feature our non-Latin typeface and Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype collections and the archives of distinguished designers such as Hans Schmoller and Banks & Miles.
Accessible and widely-disseminated research
The division’s research is accessible within and beyond the academic community, through professional journals, the web and digital media, television and radio, and public exhibitions.
Our book series Typography Papers has been acknowledged internationally as a quality benchmark for research and scholarship, particularly its incisive and careful use of textual and visual presentation and argument. It has been described as “a fabulous volume with papers of major importance”.
We engage fully in the wider dissemination of design research, through organising international conferences and serving on the editorial boards of leading journals Design Issues, Information Design Journal, Visible Language, The Ephemerist and Hyphen.
A vibrant research community
The research interests of our multi-disciplinary staff – design theorists and practitioners, historians and psychologists – are reflected in the topics of our lively and international postgraduate students. Many of our MA students stay with us to carry out doctoral research, having first completed taught courses in book design, type design and information design, or our master’s research degree.
- We are currently extending our collaboration with Google, developing a new multi-script typeface family for text-intensive use. This project brings together our expertise in letterforms and in complex typography. Documentation of the design decision-making in this collaboration will provide a model for other type designers approaching multi-script projects.
- Following research funded by the Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge 2012, our Handbook for Dementia Carers,, developed with Berkshire Healthcare Foundation Trust, has now been converted to e-book and app versions, in collaboration with Health Education England Thames Valley. It is available as The Dementia Guide for Carers and Care Providers from Kindle Store, iBooks and App Store.
Blacksell, R. E. (2016) Categories & order systems: Claude Parent and The Serving Library intersections of architecture, art and editorial design. Architecture and Culture, 4 (1). pp. 73-89.
Kindel, E. (2013) A reconstruction of stencilling based on the description by Gilles Filleau des Billettes. In: Kindel, E. and Luna, P. (eds.) Typography papers 9. Hyphen Press, London, pp. 28-65.
Ross, F. (2013) Digital typeface design and font development for twenty-first century Bangla language processing. In: Karim, M. A., Kaykobad, M. and Murshed, M. (eds.) Technical Challenges and Design Issues in Bangla Language Processing. IGI Global, Pennsylvania U.S.A., pp. 1-15.
We work collaboratively with stakeholders to develop research with the potential to influence their practices and processes.
Creating access to reading
Our work with type manufacturers has resulted in accessible and readable typefaces for global scripts; similarly, we have helped global digital providers, Google and Microsoft, raise the quality of typefaces presented to their users. Through detailed consultations with students and teachers, we have also developed typefaces specifically to support people learning to read.
For more information, read Enriching communities of literacy: typographic support for world scripts (PDF-144KB)
Communication in challenging contexts
We use information design to improve healthcare communication and decision-making in UK healthcare trusts. We developed structured communication tools for young offender institutions, reducing confrontations between offenders and staff. The research base we provided for Government Digital Services' style guide, helped them improve communication quality on GOV.UK.
For more information, read Designing information for everyday reading (PDF-188KB)
Building awareness and skills
We use our research to build public understanding of the historical and contemporary role of written and graphic communication, through curating exhibitions, lectures to non-specialists, training courses and awareness-raising events. Our annual type design training course (TDi) attracts international professional type designers. Our exhibitions, particularly based on our curated collections, such as the Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype Collection, receive sustained professional, public and media attention.
For more information, visit http://typefacedesign.net/courses/tdi/
The Typography & Graphic Communication Research Division leads the Arts & Humanities Research Council's Design Star Centre for Doctoral Training, a consortium of five universities. Design Star funds studentships and provides innovative training for doctoral students. For more information, visit www.designstar.org.uk.
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