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Dr Ruth Blacksell

  • Department Director of Postgraduate Taught Studies
  • Pathway Lead, MA Communication Design: Book Design Pathway
  • Module Convenor, BA and MA modules
  • Supervisor, undergraduate practical projects and professional assignments, BA and MA dissertations, and doctoral dissertations


Room B4, Typography & Graphic Communication, TOB2 (Building 21)

Building location

Whiteknights campus

Areas of interest

Much of my research to date has been concerned with examining typographic engagements and acts of publishing in practices of 1960s/70s conceptual art. I have also focused on the emergence of a contemporary interdisciplinary territory, which following this historical and theoretical lineage, cross-references and extends the vocabularies and contexts of art, editorial design and architecture.

I have been jointly responsible (with the Department of Art) for establishing a partnership with the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London and have used the ICA venue to stage a number of public-facing events connected with my research. For example, in 2015 and 2016, I co-organised and chaired (with Dr Stephen Walker from Sheffield School of Architecture) Architecture and the Spaces of Information, parts one and two.

The first of these events coincided with an exhibition in the ICA's Fox Reading Room Everything is ArchitectureBau Magazine from the 1960s and 70s and the second event coincided with the launch of our co-edited special edition of the journal Architecture & Culture (4.1) Architecture & the Spaces of Information (2016: Routledge: Taylor & Frances).

Prior to this, in 2014, I organised and chaired the event Art Information: Editorial Strategies, Text-Based Formats, Publishing Contexts which brought together a panel of international contributors for a symposium, to follow on from my 2012 open lecture "From Visual to Textual: Typography in/as Conceptual Art", and the ICA's exhibition In Numbers: Serial Publications by Artists since 1955.

In 2016, I was invited to chair a conference panel, Spaces of Information, at the annual Contemporary Artists' Books Conference (CABC), hosted by the New York Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1. I was also invited to present on the panel Art Magazines and Magazine Art at the Association of Art Historians' (AAH) annual conference at the University of Edinburgh.

I have presented regular keynotes, conference papers and invited lectures at institutions including Hauser & Wirth, Somerset, UK (2015), Chelsea College of Arts, University of the Arts London (2014), The Artists Institute, Hunter College, New York (2014) and University of the Arts, Bremen, Germany (2014). I have written exhibition reviews that draw on my research, as for example with "Studio International" for The Burlington Magazine in June 2015; and I have contributed to round-table discussions, including the 2016 Towards a New Publishing House, convened by Arnaud Desjardin and the 2014 Please Come to the Show: Invitations and Flyers from the MoMA Library Archive New York, convened by Occasional Papers and David Senior, both at the ICA in London.

Postgraduate supervision

I supervise doctoral students in subjects relating to the history and theory of typography and graphic communication and particularly in areas relating to artists' books and art publishing practices. In 2015, I secured a Collaborative Doctoral Partnership with Tate Library and Archive to investigate the forms, strategies and contexts of publishing in modern and contemporary art practice (1960s to the present day). I welcome enquiries from postgraduate students who are interested in the intersections of art and editorial design through print, digital and/or hybrid forms.


Prior to commencing my PhD and academic posts, I worked as a typographic designer, specialising in print and exhibition design for museums and art galleries. From 1996 I was Art Director of International Projects for Sotheby's (London) before teaming up with Anne Odling-Smee in 2002 to form O-SB, a London-based design practice where I still contribute occasionally as a design consultant.

Academic qualifications

PhD, University of Sheffield (2012)
Typography after Conceptual Art'. Funded by a Concordat Scholarship from the British Library and jointly supervised at the British Library and in the School of Architecture, University of Sheffield.

MA in Aesthetics and Art Theory, Middlesex University, London

BA (Hons) in Typography & Graphic Communication, University of Reading 


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