Fiona Ross is awarded the SoTA Award

Fiona Ross receives the SoTA Award

In a room bursting with applause and cheerful congratulations, Fiona Ross was awarded the prestigious SoTA Typography Award for her design and teaching work, during the TypeCon conference in Washington DC. The event began with prerecorded messages by graduates sending their congratulations from many countries holding up warm messages in some of the many scripts Fiona has supervised, followed by salutations by John Hudson and Gerry Leonidas.

Fiona’s first career in type design started when she took the job of coordinator for non-Latin typefaces at Linotype in 1978. John Hudson reminded the audience that “Over the following decade at Linotype, Fiona would build the non-Latin design department into the most technically and aesthetically creative team of its kind, employing designers, draughting staff and computer programmers selected by her. At a time when other companies were busy converting their old metal and photo types to the new digital technologies, Fiona undertook an extensive programme of innovative new typeface design for Indian, Arabic and Southeast Asian scripts, often working closely with the newspaper publishers and editors who were Linotype’s biggest customers.”

Hudson continued: “In addition to developing new designs for Indian scripts at this pivotal moment of technological change, Fiona also pioneered the use of phonetic keyboard input, using software to drive the visual display of characters, rather than requiring the typesetter to enter text in visual order. This model, in which phonetic character strings and visual glyph strings are separated—the now familiar separation of content and display—, influenced both ISCII, the Indian national standard for computing, and the Unicode Standard.”

Hudson outlined the many collaborations between Tiro Typeworks and Fiona as an independent consultant, starting with their collaboration, with Tim Holloway, on the redesign of the Yakout Arabic newspaper typeface: “…the first of many collaborations, each of which has been a wonderful adventure for me and a fascinating education. Together, we have made new types for Adobe, Microsoft and Linotype, in a range of scripts including Arabic, Bengali, Devanagari, Tamil, Telugu, and Thai. In the past two years we have been honoured to create custom types for the publishing of the Murty Classical Library of India by Harvard University Press.”

Fiona’s research focuses on the relationship of technology and typeface design, and has led to texts such as her book on the history of Bengali type, a key reference for the script. Her texts offer an exemplary model for the integration of research into typeface design, and are central to the building of a global reference library for non-Latin typeface design.

Through her teaching and supervision in the Department of Typography over the last 15 years, Fiona has helped establish the methodology for research-informed typeface design that is central to the MA Typeface Design programme, and a key element in a range of PhD projects. Important research projects on Arabic, Tibetan, and several Indian scripts, bear the mark of her approach. Far beyond the supervision within the Department, Fiona’s sharing and nurturing attitude to researchers and designers from around the world fosters an attitude of collaboration and learning that defines non-Latin typeface design today.

Reading group(Photographs by Laurence Penney)

This is not about fonts

QZ article on fontsQuartz just published an extensive report on the globalisation of the typeface design market and the impact on the communication sector, with support from Gerry Leonidas, alumnus David Březina, and a reference to MATD alumna Juliet Shen’s design for Lushootsheed.

Quartz’s post is another entry in a the growing list of articles in business and general interest publications about typefaces, evidence that awareness about the importance of typeface design is spreading to fields far outside the design sector.


Doing a PhD at Reading

Titus Nemeth thesis

Titus Nemeth submitted his PhD thesis in 2013, on the evolution of Arabic type-making under the influence of changing technologies. The thesis spans the period from 1908, when the first adaptation of Arabic to mechanical typesetting introduced machine-aided composition; and 1993, when the adoption of Unicode marked the end of typeface design’s association with specific platforms. Titus’ research was supported by an AHRC Studentship.

Titus’ PhD represents a number of type-related research projects drawing on archival material, and is a useful reference for all researchers in this area. He has now published on his blog an engaging reflection on his experience doing a PhD at Reading. His article is a source of inspiration and guidance for potential researchers, and contains useful advice for research at this level.

The PhD was not Titus’ first experience in Reading. He had graduated from the MA Typeface Design in 2006, having completed an important Latin/Arabic typeface and a dissertation on Arabic newspaper typography.



Full house at TYPE& in Tokyo

TYPE& Tokyo


Sponsored by Monotype, the 2014 TYPE& events in Tokyo included a masterclass for professional typeface designers, and presentations and panel discussion on multi-script typography and typeface design. The events captured the growing interest by Japanese type foundries to expand into Latin typeface design, and gave an opportunity to discuss Reading’s approach to developing multi-script design skills. Gerry Leonidas ran the masterclass on the first day of the event, and presented on the second, answering many questions on the MA Typeface Design programme’s contribution in the area. Reading alumna and Monotype employee Reiko Hirai was instrumental in the success of the event.

Gerry will be moving to a different part of Tokyo to spend a week at Mushashino Art University, and give a public lecture at the Toppan Printing Museum.

Журнал «Шрифт» features the MATD

Moment from the Type Journal interview

The notable Russian online journal «Шрифт» (“Type”) published a substantial interview of Gerry Leonidas, programme director of the MA Typeface Design. The interview, which focuses on Reading’s pioneering approach to typographic education, is accompanied by images of student work and moments from the Department captured by Evgenia Basyrova.

The original text of the interview, in English, is available on this page.

Visit from Mushashino Art University

MAU UoR group photo

MAU visitors and Reading hosts, from left Ms Aki Amitani, Professor Yoshiro Goto, Gerry Leonidas, Toshi Omagari, Professor Gerard Unger, Yui Yoshitomi, Julian Moncada, Mari Kitamura, Akiko Maeda, Yukiko Aoshima.

Marking  the University’s new connection with the Mushashino Art University of Tokyo, two staff members and four students visited the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication for an intensive week of typeface design. The group, led by Reading alumnus Professor Yoshiro Goto of the Visual Communication Design Department, used their time in Reading to conclude a collaborative project devised by Prof. Goto and Gerry Leonidas, and delve deeper into the Department’s research-informed approach to typographic practice. Their schedule combined dedicated sessions, as well as shared tutorials and seminars with current BA students. The group also took part in sessions of particular interest by Professors Michael Twyman and Gerard Unger. Assisting generously throughout the week were fellow alumni Julian Moncada and Toshi Omagari (also a MAU alumnus).

Non-Latin festival in Bangkok

Granshan 2013

The University of Reading is a partner in the 2013 Granshan: Design and Identity conference in Bangkok, currently under way. The  Department is contributing with a special version of the “From hot-metal to OpenType” exhibition, which opened to the public yesterday in the library of Chulalongkorn University.

Speakers include Typography staff Gerard Unger and Gerry Leonidas, and graduates Paul Hunt and Ben Mitchell.


Yearbook of Type

Yearbook of Type 1

Edited by the same team that publish the Slanted magazine, this substantial reference volume for new typefaces has just been published by Niggli. The  volume presents typefaces in generous specimens, and includes a number of essays on typeface design. Amongst them, a detailed presentation of the MA Typeface Design programme. The impressively produced volume is available from Slanted’s shop.



Reading at ICTVC 5, Nicosia

Reading at ICTVC 5, Nicosia


Reading staff and graduates have returned from the fifth International Conference on Typography & Visual Communication, hosted by the University of Nicosia. ICTVC is the brainchild of Dr Klimis Mastoridis (a Reading alumnus) who, since the first event in 2002, has given the conference a distinct character that sets it apart from most such events. Amongst typography-orientated events, ICTVC is probably the most diverse in the range of academics and practitioners it brings together. And, even in this smallest of its iterations, it attracted speakers and delegates from four continents.

The combination of research and practice makes ICTVC a very good fit for Typography, and it was no surprise to see the Department represented well. The speaker lineup included staff members Mary Dyson, Gerry Leonidas, and Sue Walker, and current PhD candidates Sallie Morris and Niki Sioki. PhD alumni Petra Cerne Oven, Sue Perks, Karel van der Waarde, and MA alumni Julián Moncada, Elena Papassissa, Vaibhav Singh, and Adi Stern also presented papers.

For a general report on the conference, head over to Mark Barratt’s post on the Eye magazine blog.