Celebrate the Festival of Britain

A study day to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary

Do come and join us for a day of celebration and scholarship on Tuesday 20 September 2011. The programme for the day will consist of a variety of short talks by specialists on a rich diversity of topics relating to the Festival.

We’ll be focusing on the Festival’s presentation and graphic design, including a talk by Naomi Games on her father’s design for the symbol. Other topics will include the signage, architecture, reminiscences of festival-goers, and the social context of the time.

An evocative exhibition will be mounted in the department to accompany the talks, including film footage, ephemera, souvenirs, publications and hitherto unpublished photographs.

The study day will start with a welcome at 10.30am and will finish by 5pm.

£60 (includes a buffet lunch – with some festival treats!)   Students £30

Contact Diane Bilbey for more information.

This beautiful land around us

There might be at least ten good reasons to study in Typography, but there’s a eleventh one that we can make no claim to be responsible for. Most universities, if you’re lucky, will have their buildings in a single campus, with some green land in between. Reading is the other way round: the campus is very much a stunning park with a bunch of buildings sprinkled on. And I’m not the only one thinking this: a couple of weeks ago it was announced that the campus was awarded a prestigious Green Flag. According to the press release, Reading is only the second university to receive the award.

The most prominent effect of the campus on the the people working there is its complete domination of the horizon: look out of any window, and instead of the rectangular grey or maroon of buildings you expect to see in cities, you will see the tops of mature oaks and cedars all around you. There is something deeply satisfying in seeing human activity sandwiched between a sea of green and open sky, the rectangular patterns of construction and order being guests in an ancient curtain of leaves. After a few hours staring at a screen half a metre away, the irregularity of foliage over open expanses is rejuvenating.

A couple of days ago I realised some of the students had not been to The Wilderness, nor the Harris Garden (or Dinton Pastures, or the cycling route to Mapledurham, or The Lookout…). Two minutes’ walk from the Department, The Wilderness is a managed natural forest on campus, and  a designated Wildlife Heritage Site. This means that conservation work is carried out discreetly, and the forest looks and feels as if nature is taking its course undisturbed. A bit further on, the Harris Garden is an oasis of plants whose names I never remember, but whose colours and shapes stay in my memory. (It is also a good picnic ground.)

Picnic in the Harris Garden

Picnic in the Harris Garden

Two are my favourite parts of the campus. The open green next to the Library reminds me of checking out a bunch of books when I first arrived in Reading, and sitting under the trees reading (thinking “five down, five million to go”). On the same patch, many years later, I was running behind my kids shouting “you did it! I’m not holding you!” (Like many children, they both learned how to ride a bike in the open expanses on campus, and still spend many hours there for sports.) My second favourite place is the south-eastern bank of the lake, beyond Wessex Hall: it is the best spot for a picnic I can imagine (and one that I am sure would satisfy Will Self’s dad). Having grown up and worked for years in a concrete jungle before moving here, it is still something out of a fantasy that these views are a few hundred steps away from my office.

Picnic games

Picnic by Whiteknights Lake

P.s. My pictures are phone snapshots: they capture moments that jumpstart memories, but not the richness of the view. But this and this do. This beautiful land around us, it’s a privilege.

P.p.s. Normal service will resume now.

MA student Joana da Silva at the Encontro Nacional de Tipografia

Joana da Silva, one of our MA Typeface Design students, will be a speaker at the  Encontro Nacional de Tipografia conference, hosted by the Universidade de Aveiro in Portugal, on 30 September. I can’t read Portuguese, but I can just about decipher the “Áreas de interesse”, and it made me think “I wish I could be there”. Good names are already on the speakers’ and organisers’ lists.

My first visit to Portugal (for ATypI 2006, in Lisbon) was an eye opener: there was strong community of designers and teachers in typography and typeface design, but they were not making their presence felt much outside the country. In the last five years this has started to change at an increasing pace. Events like the Encontro help develop a particularly regional take on typography.

The Encontro organisers are keeping the event modest in length, which has to be applauded. As larger typographic gatherings grow in numbers (ATypI, Typecon, TypoBerlin, the new TypoLondon, and others I forget) it is the smaller events, of one or two days at most, with modest registration fees, that become more rewarding to attend. Although the big typo-events are always appealing, it is the smaller events that fit better in a full typographic calendar. (I’m thinking of the many one-day events and one annual two-day conference at St Bride Library, the relatively new TypeTalks, the IDC in Katowice, amongst others.) Who knows? Maybe in a few years the big-ticket events will only be every two or three years, like the bi-annual CIT Valencia and Tipos Latinos, and the tri-annual ICTVC. (Or every ten, like the wonderfully far-sighted ATypI Letter2 event!)

But, hidden in the competition of the growing number of events for our time (and wallet) are two especially good developments: that most of the new events are based in countries that do not have a long tradition of typographic gatherings; and that there are many young speakers who are designers, teachers, and researchers. As typography and typeface design are getting established in ever more schools and universities, we can look forward to more events like the Encontro.

Encontro Nacional de Tipografia