University of Reading cookie policy

We use cookies on reading.ac.uk to improve your experience, monitor site performance and tailor content to you

Read our cookie policy to find out how to manage your cookie settings

Dr Borna Izadpanah

  • Lecturing in typeface design, typography, and graphic communication across undergraduate and postgraduate programmes

Office

Room F8, Typography & Graphic Communication

Building location

Whiteknights campus (Building 21, TOB2)

Areas of interest

My areas of interest include typeface design, typography, lithography, and history of printed letterforms, particularly in the context of languages that have been represented with the Arabic script. I seek to develop diverse and inclusive theoretical and practical outputs by linking an updated understanding of the past with current practices. Central to my work is decolonising the curriculum and promoting diversity by combining expertise in a wide range of related disciplines that reach beyond European visual cultures and the Latin script.

I aim to make knowledge and resources in our field more widely available. I am interested in interdisciplinary collaborations and projects relating to preserving and documenting endangered and ephemeral archival materials, knowledge exchange activities that draw on approaches and methods of digital humanities, and open access scholarly and cultural initiatives that provide equitable and inclusive access to primary materials and learning resources.

Postgraduate supervision

I welcome opportunities to supervise doctoral research in areas including typeface design, typography, and print history in Asian languages and writing systems, specifically those concerned with addressing the textual cultures in underrepresented communities and language-groups that use the Arabic script. I also welcome historical and theoretical enquiries from students keen to address historical gaps, undertake extensive archival research, and explore new avenues to inform current practices through their research outputs.

Teaching

I teach typeface design, typography, and graphic communication practice across the Department’s undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, deliver lectures, seminars, and make workshop contributions, and supervise student dissertations and advise on research projects.

Background

I have been active in art, design, and visual communication since 1999. During this period, I have explored painting, sculpture, photography, and graphic design, as well as typeface design and typography, which I currently practice exclusively.

Research and outreach

The topic of my doctoral thesis was the early typographic representation of the Persian language, written with the Arabic script, from the 1590s (onwards) in Europe, and from 1780 in India, 1742 in the Ottoman Empire, and 1818 in Iran. I investigated circumstances that affected the textual identity of the Persian language, including the impact of printing technologies, and the role the Persian language has played in various language communities. I approached the history of Persian printing from a global perspective, which allowed me to explore the history of Persian as well as other languages that have been written in the Arabic script in different parts of the world.

I have presented my doctoral research at international conferences and symposiums in Europe and Asia. I have published my research in English and Persian in specialist academic journals, on widely accessible platforms such as the British Library and BBC websites, and in short essays for Iranian journals and newspapers. I have also been involved in organising and running workshops and exhibitions, including Early lithography around the world: objects, processes, and experiences, 20th-century Persian newspaper types: investigating the design process, and Introduction to non-Latin type design.

Addressing non-academic audiences is a priority I have pursued through social media activities, writing newspaper articles, and being interviewed on TV (BBC World Service). This has been accompanied by interdisciplinary collaborations, including a video interview on translation and transliteration in the exhibition, ‘Régions d’être’, curated by the Slavs and Tatars art collective. I have also served as a jury member for prestigious typeface design competitions such as Type Directors Club and Granshan.

Practice

The critical and interdisciplinary approach that I have employed as a researcher and practitioner has enabled me to use the outcomes of my research to inform my design practice. I have designed several award-winning digital typefaces based on historical research and the close study of stylistic and linguistic requirements of languages written in the Arabic script. Notable work as a typeface designer has included personal and collaborative projects such as the Urdu Nasta’liq typeface, Gulzar (Google Fonts, 2022), Adapter Arabic (Rosetta Type, 2020), Markazi Text (Google Fonts, 2018), Marlik (Rosetta Type, 2018), and Lalezar (Google Fonts, 2016).

Teaching

My teaching in type design, typography, and graphic communication is informed by my previous experiences in teaching, research, and design practice. From 2016, I have been active as a postgraduate teaching assistant and lecturer in typeface design, supporting and covering for Professor Fiona Ross. I enhance my teaching through the use of collections, both those in the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication and my personal collection of Arabic-script publications in various languages sourced from many countries. With these materials, I have developed the seminar ‘Introduction to Arabic typography and Arabic type-design’ for postgraduate students in the Department and cohorts taking part in the Type Design intensive (TDi) program. I have also co-led the two-day course, ‘Introduction to Non-Latin Type Design’, with Professor Fiona Ross and Dr Vaibhav Singh at the British Library.

Academic qualifications

PhD, University of Reading (2021) 
‘The early typographic representation of the Persian language’. Funded by an AHRC Design Star studentship

MA in Typeface Design, University of Reading (2015)
‘The typographic development of the Nasta’liq style’ (dissertation), Lida typeface family (practice)

MA in Graphic Design, London College of Communication (2010)

BA in Graphic Design, Soore University (2006)

Awards and honours

Type Directors Club, Certificate of Typographic Excellence (2017)

Granshan Typeface Design Competition, Second Prize for Arabic Display Typefaces (2017)

Pangramme: Learning Type Design, Honourable Mention (2016)

Granshan Typeface Design Competition, Grand Prize and First Prize for Arabic Text Typefaces (2015)

Selected publications

‘Persian and Arabic printing with movable type in Qajar Iran (1818–1900)’, Arabic typography: history and practice, Salenstein: Niggli Verlag (2022), 75–153

‘Mo’ammā-ye nakhostīn ketāb-e fārsī chāp’shodeh dar īrān’ [The enigma of the first Persian book printed in Iran], Jahān-e Ketāb, vol. 26, no. 1–3 (2021), 41–47

‘Sarāghāz-e chāp va horūf’rīzī-e fārsī dar orūpā’ [The beginning of Persian printing and typefounding in Europe], Jahān-e Ketāb, vol. 25, no. 9–10 (2021), 40–52

Haghighi’s typefaces (2020)

‘Early Persian printing and typefounding in Europe’, Journal of the Printing Historical Society, new series, no. 29 (2018), 87–123

Selected presentations

History of printing in Iran: particularities and challenges (Centre for Book Cultures and Publishing, University of Reading, 2022)

Translate me over a river (Régions d'être, Izolyatsia Foundation and the Villa Arson, 2021)

Towards a Global Definition of Excellence in Type Design (conversation with the 25TDC Typeface Design Competition jury, 2021)

The current state of research in typography (ATypI Working Seminar, Amiens, 2020)

Persian newspaper types (interview in Persian with BBC World Services, 2019)

The emergence of printing in Qajar Iran: an overlooked chapter of the history of Arabic-script printing (ISType, Istanbul, 2019)

Simplified Urdu: Nasta’liq type for mechanical composition and the question of ownership (Technologies of print in South & Southeast Asia: the social history of modes of production, Royal Asiatic Society, London, 2019)

Mīrzā Malkum Khān’s reformed Arabic alphabet (Multiple impressions: the coexistence of scribal practices and printing technologies in texts, SOAS, University of London, 2018)

Early Persian printing and typography in Europe (ATypI Conference, Antwerp, 2018)

Early Nasta'liq movable type printing in India and Egypt (Arabic and Persian Printing History and Culture, University of Birmingham, 2016)

Publications