Research students' topics
Our current students and topics include:
'A comparison of the wayfinding behaviour used in print, on-screen, and in three-dimensional contexts'
Supervisors: Mary Dyson and Ruth Blacksell
This research project looks for similarities in the wayfinding (purposeful search) behaviour employed by individuals in three different contexts: the space of printed documents, the space of interactive screens, and the space of three-dimensional man-made environments. The working premise is that wayfinding behaviours can be sorted into a limited set of categories, and that this set of categories is applicable to all three context. The objectives of this project are to: (1) define a set of categories; (2) investigate their deployment in the different contexts; and (3) seek relationships between the categories of wayfinding behaviour, contexts, people, and task types.
'Systematic analysis of style in multilingual typeface design'
Supervisors: Mary Dyson and Fiona Ross
One of the key aspects of typeface design is to achieve a sense of unifying style which makes different letters look related. A systematic analysis can inform practise, education, design for insufficiently documented writing systems, and readability research. The goal of this research is to analyse character form correlations and their potential contribution towards style as perceived by experienced readers in selected typefaces for continuous reading in three writing systems (Latin, Greek, Devanagari).
'Fortunato Depero and the bolted book'
Supervisors: Ruth Blacksell and Christopher Burke
In 1927 the book Depero Futurista, also known as the bolted book, was published by the futurist artist Fortunato Depero together with the Dinamo-Azari publishing house.
The proposed research project seeks to analyse the Depero Futurista from an editorial and typographical perspective.
Image: Depero, F. (1927). Depero Futurista. Milano: Dinamo-Azari. Size 32x24 cm.
Sara Copetti Klohn
'Visual Information for Children'
Supervisors: Alison Black and Eric Kindel
My research involves the analysis of illustrated graphic material that promotes children's health and safety. The aim of the research is to assess the effectiveness of such material and put forward recommendations for good practice in this area.
'Early Arabic types in Europe and the Middle East between XVI and XIX centuries'.
Supervisors: Gerry Leonidas and Fiona Ross
The story of Arabic printing started outside Arab lands, moving its first steps in Italy in the early XVI century. Here the first book with Arabic movable type was printed over 200 years before any of the Middle Eastern countries had adopted Gutenberg's innovation. The reasons and the consequences of this delay have yet to be documented and described from a typographic point of view. The aim of the proposed research is to investigate the development of Arabic typeforms in the early days of printing, and to document how the first European and Ottoman printers approached the transition of Arabic from manuscript to printed form.
Image: The first book printed with Arabic metal type, Kitab salāt al-sawā'ī, Gregorio de Gregorii, Fano, 1514. Image by Riccardo Olocco. Source: Biblioteca Estense, Modena, Italy.
'Typographic genres in newspapers'
Supervisors: Mary Dyson and Andy Goodwyn
We take for granted that there are different categories of newspapers, such as "broadsheets" or "popular press". But how are these genres actually built visually? They are at the same time graphic styles as well as socially defined categories. My research investigates both aspects.
'The design of illustrated texts for readers with early-stage Alzheimer's disease'
A Design Star project, supervised by Professor Alison Black and Professor Sue Walker
Reading relies heavily on memory, so individuals with Alzheimer's disease often find that their ability to read books diminishes as the condition progresses.
The aim of this project is to clarify the issues surrounding the early stages of this loss and to question whether there are any modifications to book design that might prove to be beneficial. Research will be focussed on three specific areas.
1. Loss of cognitive function
Although the experience of individuals can vary, Alzheimer's disease is generally characterised by memory loss in the areas of orientation and information retention. Recent research using advanced scanning techniques would seem to suggest that these two impairments are caused by a degeneration of specific areas of the brain. The practical implications of damage to these and other significant areas will be carefully described.
The research will be located within current discussions surrounding disability and enablement. Since the study will focus on early-stage Alzheimer's, it is hoped that individuals will be willing to share their experiences of reading and will be able to provide some insights into the difficulties they encounter. Structured interviews may give an opportunity for participants to highlight the obstacles raised by current illustrated texts.
Building on the observations of participants and the experience of special needs publishers, pairs of sample spreads will be prepared offering alternative solutions to issues of content and design. Spreads containing different choices of vocabulary, sentence structure, image and layout will be presented, and individuals will be invited to comment on the clarity and memorability of each.
Illustrated texts have evolved to meet the needs of readers with typical cognitive abilities. This research aims to clarify the needs of readers whose powers of perception, comprehension and retention are compromised by their current medical condition.
'Linotype in Greece: the introduction of new typefaces in the Greek popular print media, 1970-1980.'
Supervisors: Gerry Leonidas and Paul Luna
The subject of this research is Linotype's introduction of new typefaces for commercial printing in Greece between 1970 and 1980. This project studies the process of design and manufacture of these typefaces for photocomposition, as well as the social circumstances under which they were commissioned and used. It also aims to explain the effects these typefaces had on the Greek typographic aesthetics at the time, and the ways in which they influenced the design of popular national publications and of advertisements. The primary source that supports this research is the Linotype Greek Archive at the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication. Finally, this research aims to document a less well known aspect of Linotype's activities, involving its businesses across the U.S., U.K., Greece and Germany, and an international team whose combined expertise included type design, printing technology and business.
Image: Helvetica Greek Bold designed by Matthew Carter and produced by Linotype. Proof for Linotype Quick, 1971. From the Linotype Greek Archive, Department of Typography & Graphic Communication, University of Reading.
'The translation and transformation of graphic communication across mediums and modes'
Supervisors: Alison Black and Gerry Leonidas
Graphic communication may be presented through the use of various modes (e.g. image, schematic, text) and across diverse mediums and platforms (e.g. print, digital; digital on a smartphone, digital on a laptop). Modern technology has led to an increase in the simultaneous use of these different and multiple modes, and different and multiple mediums. This research aims to develop a framework for considering the representation of the design of graphic communication across multiple and differing mediums and modes, and the accompanying translation and transformation of content.
'The typeface designs of Eric Gill'
This is a project in conjunction with St Bride Library, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) through a collaborative award.
Supervisors: Rob Banham, Paul Luna, James Mosley
The period in which Eric Gill's typefaces were first manufactured was the golden era of hot metal typesetting and Gill himself is arguably the most important British typeface designer of the twentieth century. This research will document the complete body of Gill's work as a typeface designer for the first time; explain the role he played in the conception and manufacture of each of his designs; evaluate the impact of hot-metal typesetting technology on Gill's typefaces and investigate subsequent versions which were produced for photocomposition and digital typesetting.
In addition to extensive archival research at St Bride Library, this doctoral research will draw on the archives of the Monotype Corporation Type Drawing Office, held by Monotype Imaging.
Image: Eric Gill's recognisable capital R shown in 36pt Gill Sans and 36pt Gill Sans Titling metal type.
Dilek Nur Polat
'The Latin alphabet reform in Turkey: An examination of publication design in the transition period from a typographic perspective'
Supervisors: Sue Walker and Ruth Blacksell
Before the alphabet reform in 1928, Turkish was written in the Arabic script with additional Turkish letters for over a thousand years. The reform was imposed by a law as a part of political and cultural modernization. The transition between the use of Arabic and Latin scripts in printed media took place over four months after the new alphabet was introduced.
My research aims to understand how the alphabet reform was represented visually in newspapers and magazines, which were also used as helping devices by the reformers. In accordance with this, the change in the transition period will be examined under two main categories as production and design. Within these categories, general features of publications, printing process and technology, layout, the use of type and other design elements related to the change will be taken into account and presented both visually and theoretically.
Image: The alphabet transition of Ikdam Newspaper, from Arabic to Latin, in 1928.
'Democratising knowledge: Chambers's illustrated encyclopaedia'
This is a project in conjunction with National Museums Scotland, funded by the Arts and Humanities
Research Council (AHRC) through a collaborative award.
Supervisors: Dr Rob Banham and Professor Paul Luna, University of Reading; Alison Taubman, National Museums Scotland
Driven by an investigation of the collection of 20,000 wood block engravings from the firm of W&R Chambers that are held by National Museums Scotland, this project will examine the first two editions of Chambers's encyclopaedia (1860-68 and 1888-92). My research will explore how each edition was affected by changes in technology, working practices in the printing and publishing industries, and growth of new knowledge in the late Victorian period. It will also consider the philosophy, implicit in its publication, of a democratisation of knowledge made explicit in the Encyclopaedia's sub-title: 'a dictionary of universal knowledge for the people'.
In addition to the wood block collection at National Museums Scotland, the doctoral research will also draw upon business archives of W&R Chambers held at the National Library of Scotland.
Image: Two editions of Chambers' illustrated encyclopaedia at Chetham's Library, Manchester, 2014. Photo by Rose Roberto
'Devanagari type in the twentieth century: motivations, imperatives, technology, and the design process'
Supervisors: Fiona Ross and Rob Banham
This research addresses the historical framework of twentieth century developments in Devanagari type-design and manufacture with an aim to bring to light information relating to the design process that has previously never been systematically documented or analysed. Starting from printing and composing technologies of hot-metal and extending up to the digital era, this research aims to investigate the origins of new developments in Devanagari type-design and manufacture, the motivations behind initiating or commissioning new projects, the approaches adopted, the sourcing and selection of information, the working processes introduced, discarded, or retained with each development, and the dynamics of the organisations and personalities involved in the formulation of various solutions for printing and publishing.
Despite their enormous significance for later developments, the beginnings of twentieth-century typesetting technologies for Devanagari have remained murky and largely unexamined - partly due to the fact that many early attempts functioned more as uncertain testing-environments rather than finished, marketable accomplishments. This research will aim to highlight that the history of processes in this field is more instructive than the history of products. The design process in its entirety - including initial or unsuccessful attempts, the range of sources and models considered, debates and discussions on adopting one approach over another, and the record of decisions made in arriving at specific solutions - reveals far more valuable information than the narrative of technological innovation and success, on which much of the existing historical enquiry in the field has tended to focus.
'Typography and Politics: Newspaper typography in Romania and Moldova during the communist period (1930-1990)'
The research will explore how typography can be used by politics in order to serve conveying political ideas and ideology with the Romanian and Moldavian communist experience during 1930-1990 as a case study. Typography and its visual rhetoric aspect in newspapers from the chosen period and countries will be analysed.
The aim of this research is to find out to what extent the policies of the power were engaged in and interfered with typography in order to better control and convey the political message. In Romania a majority of newspapers during the communist period 1947-1989 were using sans serif typography for the body text. I want to show how in the Romanian case the body type typography used in the newspapers from the communist period was connected to the message conveyed. In Moldova the use of the Cyrillic writing system for Romanian, a Romance language, was imposed by the Soviet regime who took over the territory transforming the region to the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. I want to show how in the Moldavian case the imposed Cyrillic alphabet reshaped the typographical landscape of the country closing the communication with west but also the Romanian communication between two countries with same language. Romanian language is at the core of the communication with two writing systems, the Latin and the Cyrillic using different forms of applied typography.
Image: Right: the Romanian newspaper »Scanteia« (the Sparcle) first page, organ of the central committee of the Romanian Communist Party, Year 1, Number 4, 4 pages, 1944. Left: the Moldavian newspaper »Moldova Socialista« first page (The Socialist Moldova, set in Cyrillic), organ of the central committee of the Communist Party of Moldova, Year 46, Number 231, 4 pages.
'Documenting performance art in print - A new Information Design challenge'
Supervisors: Mary Dyson and Eric Kindel
Use of the print medium - as a platform for disseminating information about performance art works - has remained strong in the advent of the development of highly sophisticated audio-visual and online technologies. Traditionally, the modes of text, photography and constructed images, within books and printed matter produced by the artist, art institutions, critics and writers, are employed not just to 'document' the ephemeral performances, but by and large to explain the work, orinterpret it for an interested reader. In contrast, via the perspective of Information Design, this study aims to establish the best methods for translating - in print - 'what happened' at a live performance art event, such that a future reader is empowered to interpret the work's meaning for themselves. The study presents a new challenge for Information Design - a discipline which aims to communicate information clearly, efficiently and in an engaging way - must now negotiate the unique content that performances produce: that which is often multi-sensory, in-flux and ambiguous.
Some past students and topics include:
Jeanne Louise Moys
'Typographic meaning: readers' impressions of patterns of typographic differentiation'
This research explores whether patterns of typographic differentiation influence readers' impressions of documents. It develops a systematic approach to typographic investigation that considers relationships between different kinds of typographic attributes, rather than testing the influence of isolated variables.
An exploratory study using multiple sort tasks and semantic differential scales identifies that readers form a variety of impressions in relation to how typographic elements are differentiated in document design. Building on the findings of the exploratory study and analysis of a sample of magazines, the research describes three patterns of typographic differentiation: high, moderate, and low. Each pattern comprises clusters of typographic attributes and organisational principles that are articulated in relation to a specified level of typographic differentiation (amplified, medium, or subtle). The patterns are applied to two sets of controlled test material.
Using this purposely-designed material, the influence of patterns of typographic differentiation on readers' impressions of documents is explored in a repertory grid analysis and a paired comparison procedure. The results of these studies indicate that patterns of typographic differentiation consistently shape readers' impressions of documents, influencing judgments of credibility, document address, and intended readership; and suggesting particular kinds of engagement and genre associations. For example, high differentiation documents are likely to be considered casual, sensationalist, and young; moderate differentiation documents are most likely to be seen as formal and serious; and low differentiation examples are considered calm.
Typographic meaning is shown to be created through complex, yet systematic, interrelationships rather than reduced to a linear model of increasing or decreasing variation. The research provides a way of describing typographic articulation that has application across a variety of disciplines and design practice. In particular, it illuminates the ways in which typographic presentation is meaningful to readers, providing knowledge that document producers can use to communicate more effectively.
'Arabic typography in the machine age:
the influence of automated typesetting techniques on the form of the printed Arabic script, 1908-2000.'
This research investigates the history of Arabic typeface design from 1908-2000. During this period Arabic typography, hitherto of marginal importance, saw a dramatic increase in use. In parallel to its becoming the standard means of text production, typographic means underwent a series of technological revolutions. For Arabic, the concomittant increase of printing and the mechanisation of the tools for composition had a significant influence on the appearance of the script in its printed form. The aim of this research is to trace the effect technological shifts had on the design of Arabic type. It relies primarily on professional archives as its source of documentation; to fill gaps in literature and evidence, relevant participants to the history of Arabic typography are also interviewed.
'A study of lay graphic communication'
This project approaches lay graphic communication by examining how its producers understand and deal with graphic design tasks, and by investigating the relationship between lay designers and their professional counterparts.
'Edward Wright (1912-1988) artist, designer, teacher
with Descriptive catalogue of works (1937-1988)'
Edward Wright was an artist of diverse skills: a painter, a maker of collages and reliefs, a printmaker, and sculptor. Through his teaching in the 1950s he pioneered the concept of graphic design in Britain. His students were among the first to practise as professional graphic designers. Working with architects he produced notable designs for lettering in buildings. The rotating sign at New Scotland Yard is his most widely-known public work.
Born in Liverpool in 1912, into a prominent Chilean-Ecuadorian diplomatic family in which strict formalities were observed, Edward Wright was educated by Jesuits. He trained as an architect before the war. From the mid-1940s he settled in London. In the post-war period his combination of Latin-American sensibilities and his interest in early European modernism put him in opposition both to English traditionalism, and to a younger group of artists, architects, and critics who, in a reaction against the Establishment, were oriented towards American culture and the mass media. In a paradoxical way Edward Wright was exceptionally well-placed to understand the cultural, social, and political implications of the visual arts of the period.
My research is intended to show how Edward Wright contributed to the genesis of graphic design in the post-war period when it was becoming difficult to distinguish between 'fine artist', 'commercial artist', and graphic artist'. In this context Edward Wright's relations with prominent members of the Independent Group are particularly significant, and are explored throughout. The second part of my research presents a descriptive catalogue of over three hundred of Eward Wright's works of a disparate nature arranged thematically. My hope is that the catalogue may come to be regarded as a pioneering work that presents Edward Wright's works for further critical examination by design historians.
'International cross-currents in typeface design: France, Britain, and the US in the phototypesetting era, 1949-1975'
The aim of this research project is to give an overview of type design processes during the phototypesetting era, by documenting and comparing approaches in France, England and in the US. The influence of filmsetting technologies on the design of typefaces will be assessed and the challenges facing type designers and manufacturers at a time of great changes will be exposed. The research project will also investigate the issue of copyright and the protection of typefaces.
'The typographic design of Greek primers, 1771-1919'
The research aims to explore the history of the typographic design of Greek primers over a period of 150 years.
In particular, I investigate how the types used for the setting of text and the layout employed in the books were influenced by contextual factors such as schoolbook legislation, pedagogic ideas, and printing technology.
'The 'modern face' in France and England (1780-1830): typography as an ideal of progress'
The proposed research project aims at building a critical history of the 'modern face', a rational typographic style which symbolized the break away from the Renaissance tradition. It will study its emergence and its development in France and in the United Kingdom.