The Typographic Hub

NOTE: This event is now closed

TYPE TALKS: The Symposium

26th March 2014

A symposium presenting the work of the postgraduate research community in the School of Visual Communication at the Birmingham Institute of Art & Design



SESSION A: 1400-1510

LARA FURNISS  Defying classification? examining the processes of twenty first century design studios.  In the last fifteen years there has been a significant shift within the field of design.  Disciplinary boundaries have been defused with some designers choosing transdisciplinary models, and other appearing to defy classification altogether. Yet the majority of sources on process favour the continued separation of design disciplines in both practice and pedagogy and uni-disciplinary education, especially at undergraduate level, is still the norm. Why has this happened and what are the wider implications? Is it due to economic climate, developments in technology or a desire to redefine design itself? This study has emerged directly from Lara’s art and design practice, having experienced this shift first hand as a design practitioner over the last twenty years and now as an academic within Higher Education. The study aims examine and classify the design processes deployed in leading contemporary UK design studios to gain insight into a phenomena currently not understood. Could there be implications for design education, policy makers and even practice within creative and non-creative industries?

COLETTE JEFFREY Are you lost? animal and human wayfinding behaviour.  What can we learn from bird and bee navigation behaviour? Can animals help us solve human wayfinding problems? After fifteen years of creating signage systems and wayfinding strategies for airports, hospitals, museums and libraries, Colette is now questioning all that she thought she knew about how people find their way. She will share her ideas on animal navigation, why humans get lost, what we do when we are lost and whether people who create environments can design spaces where we can be lost without feeling terror. Kevin Lynch (the inventor of the term  ‘way finding’) believes that the ‘terror’ of being lost comes from us needing to be orientated in our surroundings. Peter White, the Radio 4 presenter believes that a high proportion of people are lost and that we should be creating environments where it’s okay to be lost.

JESSICA GLASER Recent research into the role of typography within gendered graphic communication..  The visual communication industry explores gender theory in both the formulation and execution of artefacts. Marketers also exploit the differences between genders in their campaigns. In promoting products, marketers seem to process particular, specialised ways of stimulating and reaching very precise audiences. Primarily focusing on type, Jessica Glaser’s research aims to examine whether these ways of approach actually work, and does gender have relevance in creating appeal? Bringing diverse subject knowledge together to analyse how the selection, interpretation and response to certain artefacts has an inclination to be gendered, this presentation links many areas. Connecting graphic communication, semiotics, typography, linguistics, gender studies, philosophy, psychology and business and organizational studies this presentation will introduce aspects of Jessica Glaser’s research to date.


SESSION B: 1510-1620

JOANNA JARVIS  Fashion, footwork and fantasy: the relationship between fashion, costume for ballet, and body image in London and Paris 1760-93.  This research will examine costume for dance in the late eighteenth century, and its relationship to fashionable dress and concepts of body image. How did fashion affect the costumes worn on stage and in turn how did those costumes influence fashion, and the audience’s own perception of themselves? In the second half of the eighteenth century, ballet was going through enormous change. Women became star performers and began to expand the range of their movement, adjusting their costume accordingly. The audience was made up of a growing proportion of the urban middle class with a disposable income to spend on luxuries. Social attitudes were changing – influenced by the writings of Rousseau, the growing popularity of the novel and ideas of romantic love. Through that came an imaginary life and the possibility of presenting a different persona to the world through your dress – the person of your imagination. On the stage at the ballet the audience saw women at ease in their bodies, performing for the public. The kinetic mix of movement, music and light is a powerful one, where better to discover another persona that you might take on through imitation? The research will situate costume for ballet within the social and cultural context of this period of upheaval and change before the French revolution. 

DAVID OSBALDESTINWilliam Calson IV and the rise of the sanserifs.  The advent of William Caslon IV’s Two Line English Egyptian printing types in 1816 heralded the arrival, in print, and a revival in typography, of the latest addition to the rapidly expanding family of nineteenth century display faces, the sanserif. Combined with the fat faces, antiques and egyptians, Caslon IV’s sanserif type was designed to serve the emerging needs of nineteenth century advertising and trade printing. Intended for use in posters, playbills and broadsides these display types were designed to capture attention. The English sanserifs were bold, brash, large and loud, and in the early nineteenth-century they were spectacularly original. The design influence of Caslon’s nineteenth century printing types continues through the second revival of the sanserif, establishing the face of twentieth century modernism, and its typographic impact continues to reverberate in contemporary visual culture today. This presentation traces the origins and tracks the influence of the English sanserif.

CHARLES LUBELSKI Water, wool, coal – and Percy Lund Humphries . . ..  Without the unique combination of soft water, long fibre wool and high quality coal, it is unlikely that Percy Lund Humphries would have existed. It was to become one of the most acclaimed printers in the world during the early and mid twentieth century. A company is a living entity. It is born, has a childhood, an adolescence, a maturity, a mid life crisis, an aging and a death which exactly describes Percy Lund Humphries. In the late nineteenth century a unique set of circumstances brought about massive industrial development in the area we now call Bradford. It was discovered that the soft water in the Aire valley was ideal for cleaning wool. Not only did the air have the perfect moisture content, but in the same area long fibre sheep roamed the hills and valleys and nearby was vast quantities of coal to power the mills. In one confined location the three golden necessities for manufacturing wool and worsted fabrics was found. The building of over 150 mills (dark satanic mills) necessitated complementary industries to the Aire valley, one of which was printing. The demand was huge; letterheads, invoices, colour sample books, cards, packaging, the list is endless. This army of workers also required reading material, books and especially periodicals and newspapers, which gave printing innovators like Percy Lund and Edward Humphries the opportunity to found their company. My talk is about the technical, economic and political environment which gave them this opportunity.


SESSION C: 1620-1730

JEFF LEAKProjections in the environment: an investigation into and the creation of projected graphic interventionsThe aim of this research is to investigate, analyse, compile and present an understanding of projection within its temporal contexts. It seeks to outline a critical assessment of projected imagery and more specifically projected textual content and typography. The eventual outcome will therefore seek to make a contribution to current knowledge and debates around graphic design, typography, projection and ‘augmented’ environments. The increase in augmented spaces – built environments that are, in this case, subject to projections of graphic messages and memes, looks set to increase as projection technology and advances in software make this increasingly accessible. This therefore seems to indicate that such projections will become an increasingly important part of the future of art, visual communication and our relationship with spaces. This presentation will introduce, show and discuss artists working with video projections. Further, it will consider the historical context of projected messages in the environment using archival material. This will be contextualised by an early stage review of academic research already undertaken in this field and also into relevant, related fields of critical understanding. The objectives of this early stage PhD research will lead to a more thorough investigation of the historical context of projected graphics, an examination and analysis of the relationship between projection, the host environment and the audience; to better understand the significance of and influence of, projected graphic work. Ultimately, this research will inform the creation of a new body of projected installation work.

GERALDINE MARSHALL  A taxonomy of urban letterforms: Birmingham.  Birmingham is a typical UK city that has undergone the transformation from one dominated by manufacturing industries to one lead by service and creative enterprise and multi-national commercial retail businesses while at the same time experiencing huge demographic change with the historical influx of immigration. The lettering on the buildings and street signs reflect these changes and the remnants of letterforms often remaining provide evidence of a visual timeline of what has gone before. This project seeks to trace these changes by documenting the old, coexisting with the new, and record the evolving lettering landscape before the opportunity is lost. Using Birmingham (UK) as a case study I have developed a systematic approach of taxonomy to record, classify and analyse these letterforms on buildings. The process of taxonomy permits the analysis and comparison of lettering patterns and trends in specific geographic, social and economic areas of a city, and poses the question; is it possible to construct taxonomy of public lettering on public and commercial property that integrates use, position, and lettering style? 

SAM ROBERTS Ghostsigns in the community.  Around the world there are thousands of people photographing the fading remains of painted advertising, fading on walls a.k.a. Ghostsigns. This has led to various archiving projects, some at the individual level and others involving the collective efforts of many photographers and researchers. In some instances these activities have developed further and become more interventionist in scope. Examples include conservation and restoration projects, often involving the complete repainting of these examples of historic advertising. In other cases local lobbies are formed to campaign for protection of the signs. My research seeks to investigate the motivations that underpin these efforts around the world. These projects are used to explore the meaning that ghostsigns have for the communities in which they exist, and also the opposition that these interventionist measures incite. The approach is case study based, exploring the diversity of projects that are being undertaken, from the co-ordinated efforts of those in the Netherlands to some of the ill-informed attempts found in the UK. I want to understand why people become sufficiently passionate about restoring and protecting ghostsigns to take direct action, and to develop guidelines for doing so in the future.