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Professor Eric Kindel

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  • Head of Department
  • Director of Postgraduate Research Studies
  • Curator, Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype Collection

Office

Room T7, Typography & Graphic Communication

Building location

 TOB2, Whiteknights campus (building 21)

Areas of interest

My areas of interest link across graphic design and information design history, the technologies and artefacts of graphic production and their social and cultural locations, and the history of letterforms and type. Common to many areas is a concern for material history involving close engagement with artefacts and collections.

Design history

Within the field of design history, I have taken a special interest in Isotype, in particular where its aim and claims of international comprehensibility are worked out locally. Interest in Isotype has also overlapped with the study of graphic information in editorial contexts. Additional areas of interest have included studies of the visual-technical artefacts of graphic production (for example, moiré and fluorescent ink). Of particular concern is their intersection with graphic design over time and the meanings they accrue when co-opted by designers. I have an equal interest in individuals who have exploited graphic technique from ‘outsider’ perspectives to make inventive contributions to design (for example, Dr Shinobu Ishihara).

Stencil work

My interest in the history of stencil work, principally for lettering, text composition, and other graphic marking-making, is longstanding and wide-ranging. Research encompasses visual, technical, social, entrepreneurial and regulatory dimensions of stencil work, revealing practices that are hybrid and in-between, and themes that are perennial and therefore historically durable. The research has extended to collecting artefacts and reconstructing techniques and practices. My aim is to establish a reliable account of stencil work across time, context and location. I regularly give papers and publish investigations into individual episodes that will eventually form a synoptic history. Aspects of the research have been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, American Philosophical Society, Printing Historical Society, and University of Reading's Research Endowment Trust Fund.

Work presently underway includes studies of: stencil-making in Paris in the eighteenth century, identifying individuals and assessing their work; the phenomenon of stencilled posters and advertisements in Paris in the nineteenth century (with Pierre Pané-Farré), drawing on contemporary legal documents, popular accounts, and urban photography; the typical French stencil letter made famous by painters, architects and designers; and early stencil cutting in North America, recovering knowledge of makers and their work. I am also consolidating research resources to support scholarship, for example, Stencil: a descriptive bibliography (2019), which assembles and describes nearly one hundred sources across more than four centuries and in six languages.

Letterforms and type

Interest in the history letterforms and type is distributed across several areas but is especially concentrated in studies of stencil work where letterforms are often a focus. Of interest, too, is the consideration, analysis and interpretation of the forms and formats of knowledge construction in this area, as demonstrated in Typeform dialogues (2018).

Postgraduate supervision

I welcome opportunities to supervise doctoral research in areas including (but not limited to) the history of graphic design and information design; editorial design; the history of letterforms, type and typography; and printing technique, especially informal or ‘improper’ kinds. I also welcome supervision opportunities in research involving material history, collections of artefacts, and reconstruction as a mode and technique of historical enquiry.

Teaching

I teach design practice, theory, history, research methods, and writing across undergraduate and master’s programmes.

Research projects

(Selected)

‘Isotype revisited’ (2007–2011). I served as Principal Investigator for this AHRC-funded project, whose main outcomes included Otto Neurath’s From hieroglyphics to Isotype: a visual autobiography (Hyphen Press, 2010), the exhibition ‘Isotype: international picture language’ (Victoria and Albert Museum, 2010–11), and the multi-authored Isotype: design and contexts, 1925–1971 (Hyphen Press, 2013). Project team members, activities and outputs are documented in the Isotype revisited website.

‘Monsieur Bery: Parisian stencil maker’ (2005–2006). I served as Principal Investigator for this project to study the professional life, surviving artefacts, and working methods of Jean Gabriel Bery (active from 1760s, d. 1786). Research conducted in collaboration with Fred Smeijers. Funded by grants from the American Philosophical Society and the Printing Historical Society. Preliminary findings reported in ‘Stencil-making in Paris in the eighteenth century’ (in press).

‘Reconstructing stencilling’ (2000–2001). I served as Principal Investigator for this AHRB-funded project to reconstruct a method of stencilling devised in the 1690s. Presented in ‘A reconstruction of stencilling based on the description by Gilles Filleau des Billettes’ (2013) and 'The description of stencilling by Gilles Filleau des Billettes: transcription and translation' (2013). Project team included Andrew Gillmore, James Mosley and Fred Smeijers.

Typography papers (2003–2013). While not strictly a research project, from its fifth volume (2003), onwards, I collaborated on the book series, Typography papers, supporting its editor, Paul Stiff, in giving published form to research-intensive contributions from many authors. Together with Paul Luna, I co-edited the ninth volume (2013).

Background

My early interest in design was first pursued through the study of architecture focused on dwellings with enhanced passive solar infrastructure. A BFA degree (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1988) concentrated on graphic design and typography framed by liberal arts and included a self-organised year of study abroad at Ravensbourne College of Design & Communication (London). An MA degree in communication design (Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, London, 1990) was completed through self-directed work in letterpress typography and the design and production of artist's books. After a period of teaching at CSM, I was appointed research fellow to the project that made Typeform dialogues (2018). This project deepened my interest in letterforms and type and initiated my long-term study of stencil letters and stencil work. I joined the University of Reading in 1998.

Academic qualifications

BFA, MA

Publications

  • Kindel, E. (2014) Stencil dies: new tools for an old trade. In: Blume, J. , Pané-Farré, P. , Smeijers, F. , (eds.) Vom Buch auf die Strasse: Grosse Schrift im öffenlichen Raum (Journal der HGB #3). Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst , Leipzig. pp. 41-61.

  • Kindel, E. (2011) Reaching the people: Isotype beyond the West. In: Heinrich, R. , Nemeth, E. , Pichler, W. , Wagner, D. , (eds.) Image and Imaging in Philosophy, Science and the Arts. Publications of the Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein Society, new series, vol. 17 , 2. Image and imaging in philosophy, science and the arts, volume 2 (Proceedings of the 33rd International Ludwig Wittgenstein-Symposium in Kirchberg, 2010) , 2 (17). pp. 175-193. ISBN: 9783868381160