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.’


Colloquium upcoming: ‘Printed image and decorative print, 1500–1750’

On Friday March 22, Eric Kindel and James Mosley will contribute papers to the one-day colloquium ‘Printed image and decorative print, 1500–1750’ being convened by Reading’s Early Modern Research Centre. They will both present projects and artefacts associated with the Académie Royale des Sciences in Paris. Eric will discuss the invention of stencil duplicating by Christiaan Huygens, and James will explore a text and an unknown iconography of the making of books that were constituents of the Description des Arts et Métiers.

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‘Isotype revisited’ in Vienna


Members of the ‘Isotype revisited’ team, Christopher Burke, Eric Kindel, Michael Twyman and Sue Walker, participated in an interdisciplinary symposium and workshop at the invitation of the University of Vienna and the Institut Wiener Kreis.

The two-day symposium, ‘A tribute to Otto Neurath’, took place at Vienna’s Künstlerhaus gallery and coincided with its exhibition Zeit(lose) Zeichen (Time(less) Signs), featuring work made by artists and designers influenced by Isotype and Neurath. Christopher Burke was among the symposium’s speakers; his talk was on ‘The “Weiner Methode der Bildstatistik” (Isotype): between Art and Design’.


The one-day workshop that followed was hosted by the Institut Wiener Kreis and took place at the University of Vienna. Those from Reading contributed talks about teamwork in making Isotype charts, the children’s books series the ‘Visual History of Mankind’, the making of the public information films directed by Paul Rotha, the outcomes of the ‘Isotype revisited’ project and on-going initiatives at Reading associated with the Isotype Collection.

Railways under London


The London Underground celebrates 150 years today. One of the best representations of the London Underground was a book for children, Railways under London by Marie Neurath, published by Max Parrish in 1948.

This book explained to young readers how the Underground worked, including how escalators and lifts work, how platforms are built for speed and how machines print tickets and give change. Some of the illustrations in the book are straightforward and easy to understand; others are much more complex and require detailed study.

Much of the preparatory material for the book is in the Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype Collection held here in the Typography Department at Reading. Notes and sketches shows the care that was taken in making sure that the explanations were technically correct: the designers and artists often worked from engineering drawings supplied by London Transport, and final drawings were sent to experts for checking before they were produced in the book.



This cross-section diagram conveys depth by showing tunnels at different levels, and shows how people got to and away from the trains by stairs and escalators. The people pictograms take different forms: some represent people standing still; a shortened leg on the standing still pictogram represents people walking up and down stairs, and a side view configuration indicates people walking.



This diagram explains how escalators work. A full explanation requires the reader to engage with the text, which is written in a very child-friendly way. The pictures of the posters on the wall, albeit comprising Isotype images, and the people on the stair, in particular one holding the handrail and one walking off the escalator, adds contextual information relevant to the London Underground.




Using collections in research







Just published in the Journal of Design History, a paper by Sue Walker based on material in the Otto and Marie Neurath Collection, discusses an iconic series of books for children. ‘Explaining history to children: Otto and Marie Neurath’s work on the Visual History of Mankind’ is part of the AHRC-funded ‘Isotype revisited’ project

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Type design and inter-disciplinary innovation

Phototypesetting disk segment

The Musée de l’imprimerie in Lyons is hosting ‘La lettre à l’heure des révolutions technologiques’, an exhibition about typeface design and technological revolutions throughout the twentieth century curated by Alice Savoie, celebrated typeface designer and PhD researcher in the Department.

This exhibition, which runs to 14 October, illustrates the challenges faced by users and producers of typefaces during the three major technological shifts in the industry: from foundry type to hot-metal, to photo-composition, and to digital typesetting. The exhibition explores the considerable influence these changes have had on the design process, and the progressive disembodiment of type, which transformed the industry and redefined the roles of both designers and manufacturers.

The material presented draws on the typographical archives held by three major institutions: the Musée de l’imprimerie in Lyon, the Monotype archives held by Monotype Imaging in Salfords (UK), and the non-Latin collections in the Department.

The closing of the exhibition is marked by the Congress of the Association of European Printing Museums. The two-day event features an exceptional roster of speakers: Iris Kockelbergh (Director of the unique Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp), Andrea De Pasquale (Director of the Braidense National Library in Milan, and the University Library in Turin), Charlotte Delannée, Johan Seivering, and Andréas Schweitzer (of the Association pour le patrimoine industriel, Suisse), Honourary Friend of the Department Mathieu Lommen (Curator of graphic collections, Amsterdam University Library), and our very own James Mosley, Richard Southall, and Alice Savoie.

Type in Europe

James Mosley and Alice Savoie are contributors to a new book published to coincide with the Congrès des Musées Européens de l’Imprimerie in Lyon. James Mosley contributes an inventory of ‘the materials of typefounding’, while Alice (who is an AHRC-funded research student) writes with Alan Marshall and Bernadette Moglia on ‘our typographic heritage’.

Copies are available from

La lettre en Europe