Category: research

Heritage and creativity: new lettering for HMS Victory

The name of HMS Victory, launched in 1765, the oldest ship of the Royal Navy that is still in commission, has been repainted. The name had been painted when the vessel was refurbished in 2005 for the two-hundredth anniversary of the battle of Trafalgar, but unfortunately the style used was Trajan, the Roman inscriptional letter that was quite unknown in England in 1805. Since the ship was being repainted during 2015 in a colour that is believed to be closer to that used in 1805, the opportunity was taken to repaint the name at the stern, using the ‘English vernacular’, the bold traditional style of lettering that is believed to have been in use at that date. The model for the style was engraved lettering by George Bickham. There was also guidance from contemporary paintings, and from scale models of 18th-century warships at the National Maritime Museum.

The letters were painted by Phil Surey from drawings by Adrien Vasquez of John Morgan Studios. Advice and historical research was by James Mosley.

Victory name - 2015-10-03 1 Victory name - 2015-10-03 2 - letter R

Typography tops the bill in the REF

Typography & Graphic Communication is proud to have achieved the highest GPA score (3.51) in UoA 34 (Art and Design: History, Practice, Theory), and the best REF result at the University of Reading.

Our overall score was: 56 per cent 4*; 39 per cent 3*; 5 per cent 2*.

Typography’s research covers the history, theory and practice of ‘design for reading’, with particular emphasis on information design, typeface design and book design. Research submitted to the REF included monographs, papers in refereed journals, type design and book design practice, and exhibition design and curation: 46 per cent was given the highest grade, described as ‘world leading’, and a 46 per cent was thought to be ‘internationally excellent’.

Typography’s high-scoring impact result (70 per cent assessed as 4*) reflected Departmental strategy of developing research projects with direct input from research users or with a clear view of the potential public benefit of the research.

Enriching communities of literacy, on the design of typefaces for world scripts traced how Departmental research has been used by organisations including Adobe, Microsoft and Nokia to create access to communication for large language communities, many of which have not, previously, had access to technology using their own scripts.

Designing information for everyday reading demonstrated how wide-ranging Departmental research into the design of functional documents, both historically and in current applied contexts, provided a knowledge base for collaborative projects with government departments (National Offender Management Service, the Cabinet Office and HMRC) which influenced their practices and brought benefit to the public they serve. Public exhibition of some of the Department’s research has changed perceptions of the development and role of communication in civic society.

Successful undergraduate summer research project

Mel and Peter

Congratulations go to Part 3 students, Mel Towriss and Peter Loveland (pictured above) who, over the summer, took part in the University’s Undergraduate Research Opportunity Programme (UROP) and worked with Centre for Information Design Research. Their project examined how on-screen text format affected people’s reading speed and comprehension, as well as people’s views on which text formats were most appropriate for different purposes. The texts used for the study dealt with employers’ responsibilities to run a payroll and were drawn from the GOV.UK web site. Mel and Peter found strong agreement among study participants regarding the text formats; for example, what might be appropriate for beginner or professional readers of the information. Reading times for the different formats did not differ significantly across format but there were differences in comprehension of the information they presented. Mel and Peter were runners up in a research poster  competition for all students taking part in the UROP scheme and will be taking their poster to the 2015 British Conference of Undergraduate Research.

Launch of dementia carers’ handbook

Dementia Handbook

Last week saw the launch of the Berkshire Healthcare handbook for carers of people with dementia. The handbook is the product of a joint research project between Centre for Information Design Research and Berkshire Healthcare Foundation Trust to understand the information needs of carers of people with dementia and respond with an appropriately designed resource. Once the handbook itself has been launched our research will continue, to examine how it is used; and the complete process of initial research, design development and user feedback will be made public so that it can be used by other healthcare organisations, in the UK and elsewhere. The project has been commissioned by Berkshire West Confederation of Clinical Commissioning Groups as part of their response to the Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge which was set up to encourage innovative approaches to dementia care.

Although there has been increased media coverage of dementia over recent years, it is still a poorly understood condition, and most people have no idea of the medical and social support services that are available to help someone with dementia stay independent. The handbook aims to fill gaps in people’s understanding and provide practical tools that will help family members and friends who are looking after someone who has dementia.

The handbook has been developed with the input of scores of carers, who have contributed to interviews about their experience, reviewed drafts of the handbook content and commented on design prototypes. Similarly, professionals from Berkshire Healthcare’s dementia services have also given their input, helping shape the handbook from the beginning of the project. Involving people who will use information resources in their development is standard practice at Centre for Information Design Research and the Cochrane Review has recently cited evidence for the effectiveness of health information that is developed with the input of its potential users.

The collaboration between CIDR and Berkshire Healthcare started with the development of a pain assessment questionnaire for carers to complete, to help doctors understand the pain symptoms of people with dementia who were admitted to hospital and to adjust their pain medication accordingly. This questionnaire has been trialed successfully at the Royal Berkshire Hospital and is now being presented at geriatric medicine conferences as an example of the positive impact of empowering dementia patients’ carers to contribute to the process of care.

Centre for Information Design Research is now carrying out a range of projects relating to health care, including tackling medicines waste, increasing the detection and treatment of acute kidney injury in hospitals and documenting assessments of patients’ capacity to make decisions about their treatment.

The Dementia handbook for carers has been designed as a paper resource, which is what research showed carers needed. The boxes of copies taken to the launch were snapped up, with comments from carers that it was just what they had been looking for.  But it can also be accessed on-line at

The Handbook has featured on Meridian TV, BBC Radio Berkshire and Jackfm.

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.



CIDR out and about

The Department’s Centre for Information Design Research (CIDR) has popped up in a couple of places on the web, recently.

You can see a talk by Alison Black to Oxford Academic Health Science Network on the Centre’s projects on the design of information for dementia care here.

AB talks to AHSN

And you can read Alison discussing the communication of uncertainty in meteorological forecasts here as part of CIDR’s NERC-funded collaboration with the University’s Departments of Meteorology and Psychology.

More about both at CIDR’s blog

50% chance of rain

UROP students Silchester
Left to right, Rachel Bartlett, Shyamali Abraham and Matt Standage, questionnaires at the ready
Public at Silchester
Many members of the public took time off from the dig to give us their input

Typography & Graphic Communication student, Matt Standage, has been working together with Meteorology student, Rachel Bartlett and Psychology student, Shyamali Abraham on a joint project between the University’s Meteorology Department, Centre for Information Design Research and Psychology Department on the communication of probabilistic weather forecasts. These are forecasts that show the chance of rain as a percentage – often used in American weather forecasts but less typical in the UK. In this study we are looking at people’s response to percentages presented as numbers, words (likely, unlikely etc.) and through graphic representation.

The project is part of the University’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities (UROP) scheme. In the picture (top) you see the UROP team poised to hand out questionnaires to members of the public visiting the Archeology Department’s open day at Silchester last Saturday.

The republic responded generously by taking time to complete our questionnaires, indicating what types of information they typically use to make weather-based decisions and how they prefer to see information about the chance of rain in forecasts. Some 250+ questionnaires later we’re very grateful to the Silchester team for hosting us, to all who kindly allowed themselves to be distracted from their visit to the dig to respond to the questionnaire and also to the many people in Reading town centre who also took part in the research.

Fabula – a typeface for children


Fabula is gaining popularity for use in resources for children, both on paper and on screen.

The typeface was designed under Sue Walker’s direction by a team of staff and students at Reading, including Vincent Connare, José Scaglione and Gerry Leonidas, as part of an EU-funded project producing bilingual story books for children. Since then it has been available for free, along with advice if required, from the Typographic design for children web site.

Some examples of how Fabula has been used:

Jashanjit Kaur, a designer based in Hyderabad, India used Fabula for Amigo, described as ‘a socialising platform for school children that provides a medium for sharing their ideas and pursuing interests in a safe and secure environment’.

Cecelia Erlich used the letterforms in a Spanish television programme, La cucaracha.

Dietmar Brühmüller used the font for the whole range of four young children’s games, including the one illustrated above.

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.

More information