A new AHRC-funded project begins today. Transforming science for young people: Marie Neurath and Isotype books for children aims to find new audiences for the approach to science communication taken by Marie Neurath in her books for children, produced in the 1940s and 1950s. The illustrations in these books, in series such as the ‘Wonder world of nature’ and ‘Wonders of the modern world’, were innovative in their approach to the design of complex information.
Following on from Isotype revisited, the project will make extensive use of the materials in the Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype Collection, to identify approaches to science communication relevant to teaching in primary schools today. We will work with teachers and teacher educators as part of the design process to ensure that their ideas and needs are taken into account. Pilot schools will be involved in evaluating the effectiveness of the resources to ensure they are relevant and effective.
An exhibition at House of Illustration in London in summer 2019, Marie Neurath: Picturing Science, will display examples of Marie Neurath’s illustrations from the children’s books, as well as sketches, drawings and correspondence that show the iterative nature of the design process.
Project people and partners
Prof Sue Walker and Prof Eric Kindel, Department of Typography & Graphic Communication, University of Reading
Dr Andrew Happle, Institute of Education, University of Reading
Our use of the Lettering, Printing and Graphic Design Collections in the Typography Department, and our distinctive approach to collections-based research, was exceptionally well demonstrated at the 2018 ATypI conference in Antwerp. We enjoyed top quality presentations by Typography staff and PhD students. In a conference with over 550 international delegates, who repeatedly mentioned the ‘Reading’ influence in conversations and comments, it was humbling to realise just how influential and significant our work with collections has been in developing new knowledge about type and typography, and in inspiring people to undertake research.
‘Women in type: a social history of women’s role in type-drawing offices, 1910–90’ is a new three-year research project now underway in the Department, funded by the Leverhulme Trust and led by Professor Fiona Ross. The project team includes Dr Alice Savoie and Dr Helena Lekka. For more information about this exciting and timely project, see the Leverhulme Trust’s newsletter for January 2018 (p. 11).
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.
Breaking down Barriers (BdB) – our multidisciplinary inclusive design project – has received a Highly Commended Award for Innovation in Education and Training in the 2016 Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) International Innovation & Research Awards Scheme.
BdB champions a unique cross-disciplinary initiative to embed inclusive design across the University. Our BdB vision is to ensure Reading graduates across all disciplines advocate inclusion in their professional practices and bring real benefits to the everyday lives of all users, particularly people with conditions related to ageing and/or cognitive and physical disabilities. In Typography, we are engaging with inclusive design across a range of professional design contexts, including digital, packaging, print and wayfinding applications.
Typography students say that our BdB workshops have helped them “gain insight as to how thoughtful design can influence other industries and how we as designers must work together with these other industries in order to make the lives of the people that need a helping hand that little bit easier”.
CIOB Innovation and Research Awards highlight the importance of innovation and research in raising performance levels, enhancing best practice and improving the quality of the built environment. The CIOB judges said: “This innovation in education is a practical, engaging and demonstrable way to bring to life a real social challenge with widespread value and application. The innovation shows a genuine commitment to invest in the UK’s building stock and educate the next generation of professionals to ensure the needs of all users of a facility are firmly met.”
BdB began as an exciting collaboration between the School of Built Environment, the Henley Business School and the School of Arts and Communication Design in 2015. Since then we have been joined by staff within the School of Biological Sciences and collaborated with the Centre for Staff Development and, most recently, the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, as well as external partners.
Typography is very pleased to announce an exciting new Goodwill Partnership between the Centre for Ephemera Studies (one of our research centres) and the John Johnson Collection at the Bodleian Library (University of Oxford). Commenting on this new initiative, Julie Anne Lambert, Librarian of the John Johnson Collection said:
The John Johnson Collection is delighted to partner the Centre for Ephemera Studies at the University of Reading. Our joint aim is to further the academic and popular potential of ephemera to cast light on the everyday lives of our forebears through the documents they themselves saw and handled. We are particularly excited to work with the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication in exploring the materiality of ephemera in their (often innovative) design and printing.
The Partnership will include working together on exhibitions, symposia, funding applications, projects with postgraduate and undergraduate students, and sharing of expertise on cataloguing, conservation, and print identification and conservation. It will reinforce the potential of ephemera to engage academics from a wide range of disciplines as well as the public.
Professor Roberta Gilchrist, Research Dean for Heritage and Creativity at Reading supports the collaboration:
The University of Reading warmly welcomes the new partnership between the Centre for Ephemera Studies and the Bodleian Library, John Johnson Collection. The collaboration will highlight the rich potential of ephemera to illuminate the history of everyday life and to inspire new approaches to printing and design.
The examples below are from the Rickards Collection and the John Johnson Collection.
The Department has made a long-term loan of Isotype work to the Science Museum, London. The loans are featured in the museum’s new Mathematics gallery, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, which opened to the public today (8 December). Following a visit to the Isotype Collection, Science Museum curator David Rooney chose examples of Isotype that convey simply and directly the underlying application of mathematics to the production of pictorial statistics. Captions written for the items note Marie Neurath’s early training as a mathematician.
In the last in a series of posts about artefacts in the exhibition ‘Material histories’ (now on in the Department), Eric Kindel tells the story of a stencil cut to commemorate the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.
Centennial Exhibition stencil
This stencil (shown above, at right) was made in 1876, or shortly after, by S. H. Quint & Sons of Philadelphia, a company started in 1849 specialising in stencil cutting and the manufacture of pattern letters, steel stamps, seal presses, burning irons, and so on. In 1876, the company displayed samples of its work at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia and was awarded a ‘first premium’ and a medal. Apparently to commemorate the award, two elaborate stencils were cut, based on the two sides of the medal. The stencil displayed here, translating the obverse of the medal, depicts the ‘Genius of America’ holding a crown of laurels above the emblems of industry lying at her feet. The four roundels at the cardinal points typify America, Europe, Asia, and Africa, accompanied by appropriate symbols.
In 2005, this stencil was offered for auction on eBay, illustrated by several indifferent photographs. Not knowing its identity, provenance, or significance, I put in an early bid of $70, hoping for the best since I was not able to follow the auction to its end. In the event, I won the auction, but only just: a rival bidder had bid up to $69 and then quit. I became increasingly grateful for this fortunate outcome as I later assembled the stencil’s story from Centennial Exhibition records, a Quint catalogue, Frank Leslie’s historical register of the United States Centennial Exposition, 1876, and correspondence with Gladys Quint Wigfield, the great grand-daughter of the company’s founder, Silas H. Quint (1821–1897).
In 1952, the Philadelphia-based designer Raymond A. Ballinger published Lettering art in modern use. The book features the partner stencil to the one displayed here; it translates the reverse of the Centennial Exhibition medal. Ballinger encountered the stencil at the Quint company and clearly felt it would make a striking addition to his book. The partner stencil and the medal are still in the possession of the Quint company, which continues in business in Philadelphia, now specialising in the manufacture of photopolymer flexographic printing plates for pharmaceutical packaging.
Stencil plate, S. H. Quint & Sons, Philadelpia, 1876 (or shortly after), brass Quint’s stencil, stamp, and letter works, catalogue, Philadelphia, c. 1887–1895, back cover showing a representation of the Centennial Exhibition medal
Portrait of Silas H. Quint, no date Lettering art in modern use, Raymond A. Ballinger, New York: Reinhold, 1952
‘Material histories’ presents graphic communication artefacts with a story to tell. The stories – the material histories – describe the artefacts in particular: what they are about, where they came from, their material qualities, their circumstances of production, how they were acquired, and crucially how they link to other artefacts, narratives and representations.
The use of typography and illustration in reading books for children has changed during the last hundred years. There has been a gradual shift from graphic conventions determined by printing and typesetting practice for adult readers to those more appropriate for beginning and emerging readers. Illustrations have become more important and many reading schemes used known artists to create the much-loved characters who featured in the narrative.