The problem of black ephemera

Should offensive images be consigned to history? On Wednesday 4 July, we host a unique conference that will examine how black people have been visually portrayed in printed material from the 1800s to the 21st century, organised by the Centre for Ephemera Studies and Hackney councillor and cultural historian Patrick Vernon.

An accompanying display of everyday printed items, including packaging, advertising, postcards, and sheet music, will offer insights into the ways in which black people of African descent have been depicted over the years, typically through stereotypes that we now recognise as offensive. Delegates will hear from historians of black culture and design, curators and collectors of ephemera.

Professor Michael Twyman, Director of the University’s Centre for Ephemera Studies said: “Facial, bodily, and behavioural stereotyping was so deeply embedded when artists depicted black people that even those with no particular racial agenda fell into the trap. But others wilfully played on such stereotypical traits for the purpose of advertising, humour, or in order to make political or social points. This conference will ask if we should sweep such images under the carpet as too obnoxious for viewing, or whether there is value in reminding ourselves of the dangers of any persistent kind of graphic stereotyping.

“Some themes, particularly ones contrasting black and white or clean and dirty, were endemic in advertising. The study day will reflect the many ways and numerous situations in which stereotypes of black people have been disseminated from the days of slavery through to recent times.”

Patrick Vernon said: “Black ephemera provides the opportunity for people of African descent to reclaim and revisit this period in the life of black communities after slavery, but before the civil rights movement and the struggle for independence in Africa and the Caribbean. When one looks at a range of black ephemera from postcards, trade cards/advertising, photographs and newspapers, most of these images tend to be racist and stereotypical. Tens of thousands of these negative images are still in circulation today up and down the country at postcard, book/ephemera fairs and in the possession of private dealers.”

The study day, ‘Black ephemera: depictions of people of African descent’ – 11.00 to 18.30, costs £50 (including lunch and drinks). Applications and enquiries to Diane Bilbey

Universities are living things…

A keepsake for the Secretary of State for Education

A keepsake for the Secretary of State for Education

So starts a quote by this University’s first Vice-Chancellor, selected by the current VC, Sir David Bell KCB. On a very tight deadline, we produced a keepsake (pictured above) to present to the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Education, on the occasion of the launch of the University’s Institute of Education, on 21 June (press release). We wanted something special, that would reflect the breadth of University life.

Rafael Saraiva, a student on the MA Typeface Design programme, did the lettering and designed the typeface in which the text is set in. Darren Lewis, Head of the University’s Design & Print Studio, oversaw the printing on the University’s digital press. Gerry Leonidas, Director of the MA Typeface Design, specified the typography and supervised the project.


Colin McHenry talk to BA students

Colin McHenry, most recently Group Art Director for Centaur Media,  delivered a very engaging and inspiring talk to students on the BA programme yesterday. While recounting entertaining stories from his long and varied experience, Colin stressed the value of typographic skills and their contribution to a successful career. Colin urged students to read widely, engage with events, and pursue opportunities with vigour. He rounded off the talk showing some wonderful hand-rendered paste-ups from the pre-DTP era, while describing the changing professional roles in print production.

Typography in Istanbul

ISType 2012

The second ISType conference is on today and for the next three days, in Istanbul. Reading is represented strongly: staff members Gerard Unger and Gerry Leonidas are giving talks, as are MATD graduates Veronika Burian & José Scaglione (a.k.a. Type-Together), Dave Crossland, and Eben Sorkin. Frequent visiting teacher and honorary friend of the Department John Hudson is also talking, as is MATD External Examiner Fred Smeijers. Veronika and José are jetting over from Brighton, where they presented today at the second Ampersand conference.

Radio marathon for clarity in government forms

Earlier this week Gerry Leonidas joined Bernard Baker, Business Development Director for the Public Sector at SAS UK in a series of radio interviews to discuss the just released ‘Communicating with the Citizen’ report, commissioned by SAS and carried out by YouGov. The marathon session (seventeen radio stations in one day!) picked up on the report’s clear indications that the public wants forms to be more clear, to see a greater use of online channels for communication with the government, and to explore positive incentives in form-based communication.