Postgraduate Taught Open Day Thursday 20 March 2014

MA Book Design
MA Information Design
MA(Res) Typography & Graphic Communication

We will be holding a Postgraduate Open Day at the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication on Thursday 20 March 2014. The day is primarily aimed at students who are interested in pursuing a Masters degree with us.

The itinerary for the day is as below:
• 10.30 Coffee
• 10.45 Introduction to the Department
• 11.00 Information sessions on MA programmes
• 13:00 Opportunity to sit in on a seminar

Please email Zoe Ryan if you are interested in attending, or if you have any questions.

Banks and Miles Christmas tins and drums


We are delighted to draw attention to some items from the Banks & Miles Collection. This lovely set of 17 tins and drums were kindly donated by the once chief architect to the Zoological Society of London. Colin Banks and John Miles were the society’s typographical and graphic design consultants. The donor was also a close friend of the duo at the time.

These tins and drums were sent out by Banks and Miles each Christmas to clients and associates, each relating to design work they had done that year. The examples in the collection range from the late 1960s- mid 1980s. Some of the tubs even contain their original contents.

Our examples include a London Underground design, dating to 1979, when Banks and Miles revised Edward Johnston’s classic sans for London Transport. This drum contains two napkins with a red underground logo reading ‘Banks and Miles’. Another using the distinctive British Telecom design, this contains a very helpful international dialing code card. In 1975, they referenced their iconic work with the Post Office, turning the tub into a mini post box.

These are such lovely objects, especially those containing their original gifts, showcasing some really great examples of classic British Design.

Michael Twyman awarded Sir Misha Black Medal

We are delighted to announce that Professor Michael Twyman has been awarded the 2014 Sir Misha Black Medal for his contribution to design education.

Professor Sue Walker recalls:

‘Writing about ‘Typography as a university subject’ in 1970, Michael identified four ‘basic beliefs’ that governed the structure of the Reading course:

  • the visual form of typography should relate closely to the language used and its organisation reflect and reinforce its meaning;
  • typographic designers should understand the technical means at their disposal;
  • the reader must be respected;
  • typographic design is planning in relation to the above three, usually in the context of a client, an organisation, a budget and a deadline.

These statements are still relevant today, and have influenced the approach to design taken by our students.’

Funding for doing a PhD

Typography is part of the AHRC Doctoral Training Centre, Design Star.

Design Star invites applications for full- and part-time Arts and Humanities Research Council studentships which include fees and a stipend.

Find out why you should join us, and how to apply at

Design Star brings together world-class research in design for industry, interaction design, design process, communication design, sustainable design design history, curation and creative practice. Its spread of design disciplines is linked by a common approach to research that encourages the integration of history, theory and engagement.

Design Star research training is innovative, stimulating and relevant supported by a broader range of expertise and covering more methods than within any one single institution.

Funding for up to 12 PhD studentships is available for 2014/15.

The deadline for applications is Friday 28 February 2014.

Postgraduate Taught Open Day Thursday 14 November 2013

MA Book Design
MA Information Design
MA Typeface Design
MA(Res) Typography & Graphic Communication

We will be holding a Postgraduate Open Day at the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication on Thursday 14 November 2013. The day is primarily aimed at students who are interested in pursuing a Masters degree with us.

The itinerary for the day is as below:

• 10.30 Coffee
• 10.45 Introduction to the Department
• 11.00 Information sessions on MA programmes
• 13:00 Opportunity to sit in on a seminar

Please email Zoe Ryan if you are interested in attending, or if you have any questions.

Exhibiting Aspen

Aspen, described in the 1960s as ‘the first three-dimensional magazine’, was produced in California and published in New York on an irregular schedule from 1965 to 1971. Many leading figures in contemporary North American and European art and cultural criticism were involved in its production as editors, designers or contributors and this, along with its unique format, has contributed to its art historical importance and continued relevance to contemporary art and design practices of today. Rather than bound printed pages, Aspen was issued in a customized box or folder containing a wide range of items including posters, postcards, tickets, booklets, reels of Super-8 movie film and ‘flexi disc’ phonographic recordings. These different published formats turned the magazine into a space where artists were able to move outside the gallery and engage with a broader social and political sphere. As the magazine’s editor Phyllis Johnson put it: ‘Aspen presents actual works of art! Exactly as the artist created them. In exactly the medium s/he created them for.’ Few complete sets of Aspen remain and this exhibition provides a rare opportunity to see items from across all ten issues as well as many important individual pieces which have acquired specific art historical and cultural significance.

Hosted by the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication from 18 June – 2 July 2013 (Monday–Friday / 9am– 5pm). This joint exhibition by the Department of Art and the Department of Typography has been curated and designed by MA Book Designer Lisa Stephanides. The exhibition is supported by the Arts Committee at the University of Reading. We would like to extend our thanks to Professor Alun Rowlands from the University of Reading’s Department of Art for his generosity and support in the loan of this collection.

Design is not a matter of surface appearance

Typography supports the Design Commission’s launch on 13 March 2013 of Restarting Britain 2: Design and Public Services, and strongly endorses its opening statement: ‘Design is integral to the DNA of each and every public service. Design is not a matter of surface appearance.’

Prof Sue Walker, who contributed written evidence to the Commission, has also been invited to become a member of the Associate Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group (APDIG) to highlight existing work in the design research field that has not yet been exploited by policy makers and those in government, to point to design research as an untapped resource for policy makers. The group will report to a parliamentary seminar in June.

APDIG brings together colleagues from universities recognised for excellent and relevant design research. Information design research has much to offer government and public services through its user-centred and often collaborative methods, as well as through research outcomes that inform the presentation of complex material, in print and online.

An example of research-led information design is the Centre for Information Design Research’s work for the Behavioural Insights Team, a group of economists and psychologists working within the Cabinet Office, to help with a trial they are running to support unemployed people looking for work. Earlier this week the forms were shown in the Independent in a piece describing the impact made during testing.


Students and industry (2)

Existing OUP designs

This week saw the launch of an exciting new project for Part 2 students in collaboration with Oxford University Press. OUP Education Division’s head of schools design Kate Kunac-Tabinor and designer Fiona MacColl have provided realistic briefs for innovative new covers for Keystage 3 textbooks in Science, English, and French, and they explained the design commissioning process to students on the Editorial Design module as part of the project launch. They’ll be returning to Reading at the end of term to see the results …

Supporting design studies in the EBacc

Include design

We are the first institution, with Goldsmiths, to support the campaign to include design in the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), a proposed new qualification. Currently, the EBacc will require pupils to achieve a certificate in five subject areas: maths, English, sciences, languages (ancient and modern) and humanities (defined as only history or geography). This formulation has been widely criticised for its exclusion of creative subjects, and sparked a widely supported campaign to include design in the core subjects of the qualification. The list of organisations and companies backing the campaign reads like a roster of design excellence, across the sector.

The case for design’s contribution to the economy was recently made by the Design Commission’s Restarting Britain: Design Education and Growth report, supported by the Design Council and other organisations. Its text makes a strong case for the contribution of the creative sector to the UK economy in terms of GDP, employment, and innovation. In particular, it highlights design’s role in inter-disciplinary skills that are essential for innovation and enterprise. Design is an enabling sector, without which many seemingly unrelated industries cannot function effectively: for example, advances in science rely on design for their commercial application, and successful differentiation. For Typography’s point of view, this is especially pertinent in a global market where using textual and visual information in meaningful ways is increasingly the product itself, separate from any rendering environments.

You can add your support to the campaign here.


Typewriters: ‘new technology’ for everyday use


The wonderful exhibition of typewriters and related ephemera currently on display in Typography’s exhibition area made me look again through my collection of early typing manuals.

Re-reading some of these it is clear that this new technology took quite a bit of getting used to. Pitman’s typewriter manual, first published in 1893, included a ‘specimen of typewriting illustrating, perhaps in an exaggerated form, most of the errors and irregularities to be found in unskilled work’.

The specimen is accompanied by a detailed narrative that draws attention to the defects and how they might be rectified, including irregularity of impression, irregularity of spacing, unevenness at the beginning of paragraphs, unevenness of spacing between lines and slovenliness. There are solutions to working with a limited character set, and examples of changes in language and the use of graphic conventions.

The section ‘Misuse of certain characters’, for example, discusses the use of wrong characters for the figures 1 and 0, and that the former is often written with the capital ‘I’ and the latter with the small-letter ‘o’. It goes on:
‘As the keyboards of machines are but rarely furnished with a complete set of numerical characters, the capital I very naturally suggests itself to the beginner as the best character for the representation of the figure 1, and he sometimes goes on using it for this purpose long after he has become proficient. The lower-case l [el] should be used for this purpose.’

The ‘&’  is mentioned as another character subject to misuse, often substituted for the word ‘and’ whereas it should be reserved for two ‘special cases’: in combination with ‘c’ in ‘&c’ for ‘etcetera’; and in the name of companies as Brown, Smith & Robertson. The solidus ‘/’ is described as ‘properly the sign for shillings, though it may, perhaps, be legitimately used in one or two combinations like o/o for per cent, B/L for Bill of Lading, a/c for account’. An example of its misuse is 4/10/10 for 4 October 1910.

Later typing manuals didn’t need to include examples of poor typing. Instead, as well as technical skills and keyboard practice, they provided instruction on detailed and complex matters of visual organisation. Some of the ‘rules’ for setting things out derived from printers’ and publishers’ house style manuals, but many of the conventions prescribed were determined by the limitations of the machine.