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Professor Gerry Leonidas

  • Department Director of Postgraduate Taught Studies
  • Programme Director, MA Communication Design, MA Research Typography & Graphic Communication, MRes Typeface Design
  • Pathway Lead, MA Communication Design (Typeface Design Pathway)
  • Director, Type Design intensive (TDi) summer course

Office

Room T13, Typography & Graphic Communication

Building location

Whiteknights campus (Building 21, TOB2)

Areas of interest

My areas of interest are focused on typeface design processes across scripts, and Greek typeface design and typography. I am also interested in typographic education and the development of disciplines of study relating to fields of practice, and the establishment of paradigms of practice in typography. The output of my research lies at the interface between established research outputs and the commercial world, with particular focus on knowledge capture within areas of practice and knowledge transfer between researchers and practitioners.

Collections and archives, including ephemera and evidence of making, are central to my approach to contextualise and interpret practice, and inform theoretical discussions. I draw a direct line from this research to the development of models for research-informed practice in postgraduate, PhD, post-doc, and professional environments. By extension, I champion the use of qualitative analysis of artefacts to embed typographic discourse in related disciplines and to explain the importance of typography and typeface design in wider professional and technical fields.

Postgraduate supervision

I welcome opportunities to supervise doctoral research in areas including typeface design and typography, across or within specific scripts. I am keen to supervise historical or theoretical topics – including design discourse – in typeface design and typography. I have a particular interest in topics that address the typographic support of communities at regional and global levels.

Past and current supervision topics include:

Theoretical topics in typography and typeface design 
(‘Relationships between document instantiations across systems, mediums, and genres’, ‘A framework for describing digital and platform-independent type systems’, ‘The interpretation of suggested/predictive (unknown) forms in dimensional typeface design’)

Qualitative analysis and reframing narratives in typeface design 
(‘Typesetting Persian books and newspapers: the tensions between traditionalism, modernity, and perceptions of national identity’, ‘Armenian typefaces from 1840 to the present: traditionalism, Latinisation, and the search for identity through changing technologies’, ‘A new method of analyzing printed type: the case of 15th-century Venetian romans’)

Typeface design processes and user preferences 
(‘Towards understanding inconsistency in Arabic type design and its effect on Arab readership’, ‘The interaction between changing design processes, technologies, distribution models and production of type in the digital era’, ‘Italics redefined: influences and approaches in the design of contemporary secondary text typefaces’)

Archives-based typeface design history 
(‘Typographical variations in Chinese print: missionaries, metal type and printing press in late imperial China (1813-1860)’, ‘Diacritics in the Arabic script and typography’, ‘The development of typographic forms for Kannada and Telugu scripts’, ‘The sans serif in nineteenth-century printed ephemera: a Birmingham and the Midlands case-study’, ‘Early Arabic types in Europe and the Middle East between the XVI and XIX centuries’, ‘Linotype’s design of new Greek typefaces for photocomposition in the Greek printing market, 1970-1980’)

User-focused issues in typography 
(‘Facilitating fairness: a critical analysis of government forms in the Republic of Singapore from 2007 to 2020’, ‘Typography and reader perceptions of affect in document design’)

Teaching

My teaching activities focus on Master’s programmes, covering both academic and practical elements. This includes in-person teaching on our MA Communication Design and MRes Typography & Graphic Communication programmes, on our Type Design intensive (TDi) summer course, and online teaching for our blended MRes Typeface Design programme. I additionally supervise dissertations and self-directed projects and contribute selected sessions to modules on our BA Graphic Communication programme. 

A significant part of my contribution at Master’s level involves leadership in programme development. This includes rethinking our approach to integrating research into practice and the use or collections and archival material in academic work and practical projects, responding to the diversity of our current and incoming student cohorts, reformulating the literature used in typeface design studies and contextualising canonical texts, and integrating into the curriculum evolving ideas about pedagogy at postgraduate levels. 

I am active in developing strategic partnerships with institutions sharing a research-led approach to typography and typeface design, and in making Department resources more widely accessible. 

For some twelve years I was Senior Tutor and Disabilities Officer for the Department, with close involvement in non-academic elements of student support across pastoral areas, including special needs and mental health.

Research projects

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship (2019–2022). I serve as supervisor to Titus Nemeth, the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow, whose research project is TypoArabic: Towards historically informed practice in contemporary Arabic typography. Funded by Horizon 2020.

Typographic knowledge for global communication (2016–present). I have initiated and serve as series editor for books on typography and typeface design translated into Chinese and published by CITIC and the Peking University Press. In partnership with the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), Beijing.

Merson Sign Design KTP (2010–2012). I served as academic supervisor for this two-year project to enable a company with an established presence in sign design and manufacturing to develop and embed in-house capability in multiple language and multi-script applications. Funded by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and MSD.

Monotype Imaging KTP (2008–2010). I served as academic supervisor for this two-year project to develop a strategy for bringing to market fonts based on Monotype’s archive of historic drawings for legacy type-making technologies, and develop new extended-character-set typefaces for the Indian mobile market. Funded by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Monotype.

I also initiate and deliver knowledge transfer workshops on curriculum design, research methods, course planning, student feedback and evaluation, and integrating research into practice in institutions in the UK, Belgium, China, Israel, Poland, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. 

I am a consultant for numerous digital foundries and companies requiring independent guidance and support on typeface design and typography.

Background

My journey into typography started in the mid-1980s with work in graphic design, typesetting, editing, and translating spanning fiction, periodicals, and business-to-business activities. In parallel, I obtained a BSc in Business Administration and a Diploma in print journalism. In 1994, I moved to the University of Reading to study for a PGDip in Typography & Graphic Communication. I began work on a PhD in 1995 but abandoned it primarily for financial reasons. At this time, I was developing my skills in typeface design, working as a contract designer for various projects. In 1998, I began teaching part-time at Reading and became a full-time member of staff several years later.

Professional bodies/affiliations

  • Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (now Advance HE)
  • External Examiner and External Adviser for programmes in the UK
  • Examiner for PhDs (UK, Netherlands) and panel member for sector institutional reviews (Israel)
  • Reviewer of conference papers, journal articles, book proposals, funding applications, and academic promotion/tenure applications for institutions and organisations throughout Europe, and in Canada, China, Egypt, Israel, the UAE, and the USA
  • Member of the journal editorial boards of Book 2.0Grapholinguistics and its applications, and Hyphen
  • Expert reviewer for typeface evaluations and legal cases

I am a founding member of the International Conference on Typography and Visual Communication (ICTVC), the Granshan Foundation, and have served on the organising or scientific committees for numerous conferences, seminars, and workshops globally.

For two decades I was closely involved with the Association Typographique Internationale (ATypI), as a Board member (2004–2010, 2013–20), Vice-President (2013–17), and President (2017–20). My focus in these roles has been along two axes. The first axis has been the foregrounding of ATypI’s relationship with education, which dates to its foundational principles, and the development of the relationship between education, research, and practice in typeface design. A project to document ATypI’s engagement with important chapters of typeface design history was initiated in 2018, drawing largely on ATypI archives held in Typography & Graphic Communication at the University of Reading. The second axis has been the strengthening of efforts to open ATypI to global audiences. This took the form of an active enlargement of membership outside the traditional north-western regions, recruitment of more diverse representation on the Board, the instigation of a Diversity Fund, actions to embed transparency and mentorship in the proposal / review process, and the foundation of the second Working Seminar series convened at Colombo (2019), Puebla (2019), and Amiens (2020).

Selected presentations

2020 International Summer School of the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, University of Ljubljana:
Identifying genres and styles
The type market & career options
Studying typefaces to improve your briefs

The current state of PhD research in Typography (Keynote, ATypI Working Seminar, Amiens, February 2020)

Themes in the globalisation of typeface design (Future Graphic Language: New Directions in Verbal Communication, Warsaw, December 2019) 

The decentralised mainstream (Keynote, ICTVC, Patras, June 2019)  

Enabling modernity: innovation in modulated Greek typefaces (v.1) (Granshan conference, Yerevan, October 2017)

Publications