Category: events

David Pearson: Flowers, Football & Fonts…

David Pearson began his talk to Typography students at the University of Reading citing three things that sum up what really interest him – the first and last having a direct impact on his work as a prolific, award-winning book cover designer. The second he admits, possibly less so…

Pearson recalled his time as a student – the intimidation he felt from who he described as the “gatekeepers” of typography and this impenetrable discipline he initially struggled to work within. Grasping the differing personalities of typefaces was what helped him to understand how they could be best used; the other details seemed to simply “fall away”. The essence and character of type forms is a core tenet of Pearson’s work and is a huge part of why he has been so successful in capturing just the right tone for hundreds of different classic book titles.

Pearson places emphasis on using type as the main image of a design, hence his company name Type as Image. To give an example, one design he enthusiastically cited was his cover for The Gentle Author’s, Cries of London. The ‘C’ is personified as if literally crying out, and the punctuation bursts through the decorative border, bringing a joyful exuberance to the composition.

The Gentle Author, Cries of London

Throughout his talk, it was clear David wanted to highlight the need to not shy away from collaboration in any facet of design. He described with fondness the “dignity” that the illustrations by Lucinda Rogers gave to Baddeley Brothers, highlighting how valuable the uniqueness of her style was. He then went on to speak about his long-standing partnership with Paul Barnes, a well-regarded type designer (and Reading alumnus) and co-founder of Commercial Type. David’s work often involves manipulating type in extravagant ways, and it was revealing that he often asks for Paul’s ‘permission’ for his more extreme morphing of letterforms.

 

Illustration of Jon Webster die-stamping a crest, by Lucinda Rogers from Baddeley Brothers, a book about the work of a family-run specialist printer in the East End.

As designers, there is a risk that we stop sharing our skills and become inwardly focused, quickly becoming disillusioned and frustrated with the work we are creating. By collaborating and sharing our knowledge and skills, we can avoid the common and insidious pitfalls of tropism that David himself confessed to sometimes succumbing to.

Pearson takes great pleasure in seeing how readers physically interacted with his redesign of the
 classic George Orwell novel, 1984.

The best design, Pearson believes, often comes from an open and honest dialogue not just between designers but also with clients. It came as a surprise when David told us that many of the books he is commissioned to design covers for haven’t even been written yet, thus a dialogue with the author is crucial to understanding what message the book has. This healthy relationship Pearson has built with authors and type designers over the years has given him a greater artistic licence to “bastardise” many existing typefaces and to give them a more appropriate voice.

The biggest takeaway that students had was David’s naked enthusiasm and excitement about the work he is doing. It was extremely refreshing to hear someone talk with such glee about their practice. When you see David’s work and hear him speak about it, it is evident he is a perfect example of someone who is passionate about their career and loves the work they do.

The basics: a guide to good writing and referencing

In Typography at the University of Reading, a huge importance is placed on having a good academic writing ability. Week four and five of the Baseline Shift sessions therefore aimed to sharpen the writing skills of students, with talks on professional writing and referencing.

Week four kicked off with ‘Let’s eat Grandma!’, a talk from Kim Shahabudin from Study Advice. This session focussed on academic and professional writing, specifically the role and importance of clear communication.

Students were asked to choose one word to describe academic writing and a word cloud was produced. This incorporated the views of all students, with the bigger words representing a larger number of people who all responded with the same word.

From punctuation, spelling and grammar to writing styles and the impressions they give to others, the talk really covered a wide range of points. The importance of appropriate word choice and good paragraph structure was also emphasised.

‘I didn’t expect such basic things to be enforced so much’ – Joanne, Part 1

Typography student’s knowledge was put to the test with an interactive quiz to reinforce the information that had been given, with prizes on offer for the winners!


Following this, week five played host to a very important talk on referencing. The talk was led by Karen Drury, one of the Department of Typography’s two Liaison Librarians.

The talk included vital information for students of all years across the department, with as much as 20% of first year essay marks being dedicated to referencing. Even more so for Part 3 students, who are currently working hard on their dissertations.

The talk covered all bases of referencing including how, when and why referencing should be used as well as different styles of referencing, which involves guidelines as to how the information in the reference should be structured (the Harvard style being favoured within the department!)

As a little reminder, the Harvard referencing system is structured as follows:

Author (Last name followed by first initial), year published, title of work, place of publication, name of publisher, pages used

For sources such as journal articles, the publication information is replaced by the journal title, volume and issue numbers. Websites are also slightly different, the date the source was accessed must be included as well as the URL it can be found at.

Talking to some members of Part 1 after the talk, it became clear that, before university, referencing was not as strictly enforced as it is here.

‘I’ve done referencing in the past, but it was never this rigid and strict’ – Joanne, Part 1

Being from a department such as typography, the materials we are required to reference are often different to that in other fields. As well as the more common sources such as books, journal articles and websites, Karen really clarified how we should go about citing materials such as pictures and artworks. She emphasised the basic reference structure which involves four major pieces of information: author, date, title and publication details (such as the place of publication and the name of the publisher although this varies depending on the item being referenced).

Through interactive quizzes, handouts and a variety of examples, Karen really simplified the referencing process, giving students a greater understanding of what is involved in citing correctly.

‘Learning about the specific reference structure to use was really helpful, and the quiz really helped consolidate all of the information given in the talk’ – Ruth, Part 1

Karen also recommended some different tools which are available to assist in referencing such as reference managers (Endnote online, Mendeley and many others). There are also some library guides available as www.libguides.reading.ac.uk which can help in managing and citing referencing.

‘The different tools Karen spoke about will be really helpful, I didn’t know about all of the library resources which are available’ – Caitlin, Part 1


Overall the past two weeks have offered some very key information which is applicable in all areas of study. From Part 1 and 2 essays and reports all the way up to Part 3 dissertations, Typography students at the University of Reading now have a much more solid understanding of how best to structure and communicate written information.