University of Reading cookie policy

We use cookies on 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 Christopher Burke

 Research and doctoral  supervision


Room F10, Typography & Graphic Communication

Building location

Whiteknights campus (Building 21, TOB2)

Areas of interest

My areas of interest focus mainly on the history of typography and graphic design in the twentieth century. I am interested in examining the development of modernism in typography, and reflecting on its connections to other aspects of modern culture. These themes can be traced in the books I have written: about two pioneers of German New Typography, Paul Renner and Jan Tschichold, and about typeface designer Gerard Unger. The last of these also deals with the technological revolution in type and typography during the twentieth century, and it intrigues me that this did not always entail ‘modern’ style but often resulted in revival and traditionalism. This continues a tendency that dates back to the invention of printing.

Currently, my research centres on the picture language of Isotype – its origins in Vienna of the 1920s and its adaptation to a British context. This is a story of the exile of modernism from Central  Europe and its subsequent accommodation to English-speaking culture. Due to the manifold interests of Isotype’s creators (in particular Otto Neurath), this research provides many connections with other disciplines that enrich the study of graphic design. A book I co-wrote with Wim Jansen, Soft propaganda, special relationships, and a new democracy (2022) deals with the work of the Isotype Institute for the Ministry of Information during the Second World War.

Research projects

History and legacy of Isotype. Since 2019 I have been Research Fellow on the project ‘Isotype: origin, development, and legacy’, supported by the Austrian Science Fund, and directed by Günther Sandner at the University of Vienna. In addition to scholarly articles and conference presentations, we are writing a book entitled History and legacy of Isotype, projected for publication in 2023. Based on original, archival research, it will address aspects of Isotype history that were not specifically addressed in the book that I previously co-edited and co-wrote, Isotype: design and contexts 1925–1971 (2013).

Otto Neurath in Britain. Together with Ádám Tamas Tuboly, I am co-writing a study of Otto Neurath’s years in Britain, 1940–5. Despite the brevity of this period, Neurath was extraordinarily active in many fields – philosophy, economics, planning, and not least information design with Isotype. Drawing on correspondence and other material from various archives, including the Otto and Marie Isotype Collection at the University of Reading, we aim to give a lively picture of this engaging polymath, whose thinking was ahead of its time in many respects.


Hibernia Type


Loading your publications ...