Professor Michael Twyman on forms design and the history of forms

(Cross posting from Centre for Information Design Research)

We are delighted to be able to point you to a video of one of a series of seminars for masters students and postgraduate researchers in the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication. The seminars, covering a range of topics, are given during the academic year by Professor Emeritus Michael Twyman.

This seminar focuses on the design of forms and its history, and draws together the Department’s research interests both in the history of printing and graphic communication and in the design of information for its users. The seminar demonstrates the use of material from collections and archives, which has been a key part of the Department’s approach to teaching and research since the 1970s.

We are grateful to the Friends of the University for funding the preparation of this recording.

Successful undergraduate summer research project

Mel and Peter

Congratulations go to Part 3 students, Mel Towriss and Peter Loveland (pictured above) who, over the summer, took part in the University’s Undergraduate Research Opportunity Programme (UROP) and worked with Centre for Information Design Research. Their project examined how on-screen text format affected people’s reading speed and comprehension, as well as people’s views on which text formats were most appropriate for different purposes. The texts used for the study dealt with employers’ responsibilities to run a payroll and were drawn from the GOV.UK web site. Mel and Peter found strong agreement among study participants regarding the text formats; for example, what might be appropriate for beginner or professional readers of the information. Reading times for the different formats did not differ significantly across format but there were differences in comprehension of the information they presented. Mel and Peter were runners up in a research poster  competition for all students taking part in the UROP scheme and will be taking their poster to the 2015 British Conference of Undergraduate Research.

Launch of dementia carers’ handbook

Dementia Handbook

Last week saw the launch of the Berkshire Healthcare handbook for carers of people with dementia. The handbook is the product of a joint research project between Centre for Information Design Research and Berkshire Healthcare Foundation Trust to understand the information needs of carers of people with dementia and respond with an appropriately designed resource. Once the handbook itself has been launched our research will continue, to examine how it is used; and the complete process of initial research, design development and user feedback will be made public so that it can be used by other healthcare organisations, in the UK and elsewhere. The project has been commissioned by Berkshire West Confederation of Clinical Commissioning Groups as part of their response to the Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge which was set up to encourage innovative approaches to dementia care.

Although there has been increased media coverage of dementia over recent years, it is still a poorly understood condition, and most people have no idea of the medical and social support services that are available to help someone with dementia stay independent. The handbook aims to fill gaps in people’s understanding and provide practical tools that will help family members and friends who are looking after someone who has dementia.

The handbook has been developed with the input of scores of carers, who have contributed to interviews about their experience, reviewed drafts of the handbook content and commented on design prototypes. Similarly, professionals from Berkshire Healthcare’s dementia services have also given their input, helping shape the handbook from the beginning of the project. Involving people who will use information resources in their development is standard practice at Centre for Information Design Research and the Cochrane Review has recently cited evidence for the effectiveness of health information that is developed with the input of its potential users.

The collaboration between CIDR and Berkshire Healthcare started with the development of a pain assessment questionnaire for carers to complete, to help doctors understand the pain symptoms of people with dementia who were admitted to hospital and to adjust their pain medication accordingly. This questionnaire has been trialed successfully at the Royal Berkshire Hospital and is now being presented at geriatric medicine conferences as an example of the positive impact of empowering dementia patients’ carers to contribute to the process of care.

Centre for Information Design Research is now carrying out a range of projects relating to health care, including tackling medicines waste, increasing the detection and treatment of acute kidney injury in hospitals and documenting assessments of patients’ capacity to make decisions about their treatment.

The Dementia handbook for carers has been designed as a paper resource, which is what research showed carers needed. The boxes of copies taken to the launch were snapped up, with comments from carers that it was just what they had been looking for.  But it can also be accessed on-line at

The Handbook has featured on Meridian TV, BBC Radio Berkshire and Jackfm.

Student–staff collaboration on biodiversity tracking tool


The University has launched its biodiversity mapping tool, KiteSite, which is to be used in teaching to track sightings of plant and animal life and, through GPS, map their location on campus. The tool was developed from existing open-source software by a joint team of biologists, computer scientists and designers as part of a University-funded Teaching and Learning Development project. Typography and Graphic Communication student, Liam Basford (pictured centre), developed the branding and communications for the project. He is with Bethany Everett (left), one of a group of student volunteers who tested the tool, and Alison Black, of Centre for Information Design Research, who was part of the academic team involved in the project.

CIDR out and about

The Department’s Centre for Information Design Research (CIDR) has popped up in a couple of places on the web, recently.

You can see a talk by Alison Black to Oxford Academic Health Science Network on the Centre’s projects on the design of information for dementia care here.

AB talks to AHSN

And you can read Alison discussing the communication of uncertainty in meteorological forecasts here as part of CIDR’s NERC-funded collaboration with the University’s Departments of Meteorology and Psychology.

More about both at CIDR’s blog

50% chance of rain

UROP students Silchester

Left to right, Rachel Bartlett, Shyamali Abraham and Matt Standage, questionnaires at the ready

Public at Silchester

Many members of the public took time off from the dig to give us their input

Typography & Graphic Communication student, Matt Standage, has been working together with Meteorology student, Rachel Bartlett and Psychology student, Shyamali Abraham on a joint project between the University’s Meteorology Department, Centre for Information Design Research and Psychology Department on the communication of probabilistic weather forecasts. These are forecasts that show the chance of rain as a percentage – often used in American weather forecasts but less typical in the UK. In this study we are looking at people’s response to percentages presented as numbers, words (likely, unlikely etc.) and through graphic representation.

The project is part of the University’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities (UROP) scheme. In the picture (top) you see the UROP team poised to hand out questionnaires to members of the public visiting the Archeology Department’s open day at Silchester last Saturday.

The republic responded generously by taking time to complete our questionnaires, indicating what types of information they typically use to make weather-based decisions and how they prefer to see information about the chance of rain in forecasts. Some 250+ questionnaires later we’re very grateful to the Silchester team for hosting us, to all who kindly allowed themselves to be distracted from their visit to the dig to respond to the questionnaire and also to the many people in Reading town centre who also took part in the research.

News from Departmental alumna, Carla Spinillo

Carla Spinillo (pictured above) who carried out her PhD research, on the design of visual instructions, in the Department writes of the success of her work, with colleagues at the Federal University of Parana. Brazil, advising the Department of Health of the State of Parana on the design of patient information leaflets for homeopathic medicines. This has now resulted in legislation to regulate the content and design of the leaflets, which Carla describes as ‘an unprecedented achievement for information designers in Brazil where, for the first time, experts in the field participated in the decision-making process for regulatory documents in healthcare.’


Wednesday seminar: Elisa del Galdo

Elisa del Galdo will give a talk, ‘International User Experience: Designing Outside Your Borders’, on Wednesday, 24 November.

A specialist in user-centred design, Elisa has published widely on Internationalisation of products and systems (Designing User Interfaces for International Use, edited by J. Nielsen, and International User Interfaces, edited by E.M. del Galdo and J. Nielsen).  She is the co-founder and past President of Products and Systems Internationalisation Inc., the organizers of the International Workshop on the Internationalisation of Products and Systems.

The talk, open to all, will be at 4.30 in Typography, E1.