Category: students and graduates

Typography alumni talks: a look at our future

This week was a very special Baseline shift event. Alumni from the Typography department returned to give us an insight into how their careers have progressed since graduating. Graduates from the past 15 years shared their broad range of their different experiences in the design industry with a room full of Part 1 students. Some lucky Typography applicants even joined us for a portion of the talk before being swept away back to their portfolio day. For all of us, it was a look into our futures.


Sarah Newitt

Sarah Newitt graduated in 2003 and currently works as Design Director at Kiku Obata & Company. She works on brand identity, signage and editorial projects in the fields of art, culture, commerce and the public realm. Sarah was part of one of the last years to complete the four year BA degree course at Reading, and she completed her dissertation on wayfinding. This ultimately played a huge role in securing her first job, as she was approached by the  Design Research Unit after presenting it at her degree presentation. Her relationship with DRU led to her designing the wayfinding material for Clapham Junction station. Over time, her interests moved away from wayfinding, so when she was approached by fellow Reading grad Fraser Muggeridge (who also visited us very recently), she took a job working alongside him. Working at Fraser Muggeridge Studio, which is known for typography and book design, Sarah learnt a lot about refining the visual side of her craft in a 9-year stint. But she needed another move in order to expand her career in new direction. A decision to focus on branding took Sarah to another extreme – a job at Small Back Room, a leading branding agency. This was a stepping stone into a new area – and an insight into a more corporate, strategic world.

‘When I worked at a huge branding agency, it was more like two thirds thinking and one third graphics.’

In 2015, Sarah was approached by Kiku Obata & Company. She began working on a freelance project before being offered a permanent job with them. She now works there as Design Director, overseeing a range of complex projects for high end clients. Her roots in maps and signs still serve her well, but the creativity she is afforded at Kiku Obata lets her approach these disciplines from a fresh perspective.

‘I still work on signage and way finding, but in a much more exciting way than before.’


Liam Basford

Liam Basford is the most recent graduate among today’s speaker, having left in 2015. He currently works in Birmingham in the fields of branding and advertising. After graduation, he faced the problem of deciding whether to stay in his home town to work, or move to London, where there were many more design opportunities, but much more competition. He also faced the dilemma of which area within design he wished to work in, branding or advertising. During his studies, Liam completed two internships during second and third year. At the end of the course, he won a job at branding agency Fresh Britain where he learned about brand strategy and completed his biggest project, the rebranding of Bear Grylls. As of very recently, Liam works as an advertising creative at an agency called Chapter .

‘Advertising is trying to communicate what the brand stands for.’

Liam kindly shared some of his design top tips with us, emphasising the importance of sharing your ideas with others as design is a collaborative process

‘A great portfolio will get you an interview, a good attitude will get you a job.’

Within the term ‘graphic designer’ there are so many disciplines. It’s good to be a ‘jack of all trades’ as long as the quality of work is not sacrificed. Liam suggested that as designers, we identify our two strongest skills and use them. In his case, he combined his typography skills developed whilst studying at Reading and his love of illustration.

‘Enjoy what you do, don’t take what you do for granted. Design is one of the few jobs you can get where you can express yourself on a daily basis.’

Liam also emphasised the importance of always continuing to learn. He’s recently taught himself skills in film editing, for example. For him, the course at Reading provided a grounding in the theory of design, but kept his mind open to the need to keep embracing new technology and new ways to express ideas. A printed sheet of paper is not the only way (and, these days, seldom the best way) to convey a message!


Rachel Anderson

Rachel Anderson graduated in 2009, and then went on to do the MA in Information Design here at Typography. After graduating, Rachel worked as a visual designer at Nokia, designing many different types of apps including an app store. She moved on to join the design team at Microsoft as senior visual designer. She’s now a senior product designer and mentor at Firefly Learning where she works with UI, UX and product strategy.

She was asked for some tips about how she migrated from feeling like a ‘print’ designer at uni, to becoming so focussed on digital products:

‘A lot of the design principles translate across different types of design.’

In response to a query about how to present and sell work, she took a classic approach to getting clients to focus on objective criteria.

‘Don’t ask people if they like your design, ask if it solves the problem.’


James Hannaford

James Hannaford, a MDes graduate from 2008, is now Head of Creative at Jack Wills, working in packaging, branding, window design, social media, and digital design. He works on all design aspects within the company, leading a team of six people. Websites, shop windows, social media, branding material and brand identity are under his control, and he signs off everything creative before it is sent out, communicating with company members all over the world. Design is such a fast-moving industry, so the Jack Wills brand is constantly refreshing to ensure it stays relevant. It’s important for the branding to appear holistic, whether a customer opens an email or looks in a shop window the same key branding elements should be recognised.

Starting at Jack Wills as a junior artworker three months after graduating, James initially worked on catalogues.

Whilst at the University of Reading, he did some internships working on printing presses which really expanded his knowledge and understanding of the printing process and finishes that are available. But it’s connecting his diverse interests in design, print, advertising and fashion that provides James with his greatest satisfaction at work

‘The best part about working at Jack Wills is interacting with the team.’ – James Hannaford

As well as working full time at Jack Wills, James also does freelance work, mainly focusing on brand identity. When asked how he finds time to undertake so much work, he responded that he just really loved what he does and is very dedicated.

‘I find freelance really engaging, but you have to really want to do it.’ – James Hannahford



The end of the talk played host to a short question and answer session with the alumni. When asked about how they felt the course at Reading fed into their everyday lives as designers, the prevalent response was that the strong emphasis placed on typography at Reading was a key underlying skill – and one not possessed by many graduates from other universities.

‘Typography is a differentiator. Not every course has that grounding in typography or the expertise that we’re exposed to.’ – Liam Basford

‘There’s a good grounding in theoretical, historical and practical approach. After you know the rules and have mastered what design is, you know when you can break them.’ – James Hannaford

‘I have friends who took courses at other universities and they sound a lot like fine art. It seems exciting when you’re at university, but it’s much more difficult to make the transition into the real world when you’re met with a brief.’ – Liam Basford

Another point brought up by a few of the graduates was the benefits of the Real Jobs scheme. Working to satisfy a client helps us to develop key skills, whereas BA courses at other institutions can be more conceptual. Real jobs give us stories to take to interviews, where you’ve had to overcome problems specific to you. They give you a much more unique experience in design.

The way the course at Reading is set up (receiving a brief and working on it with consideration to the client requirements), is much like the ‘real world’. The graduates all appeared to agree that the course at Reading really prepares graduates for going out into the world of design.

In concluding, Sarah made a point about understanding when to fight for your principles, and when to let things go. She suggested that a thorough understanding of design theory, copied with mature, help you know the limits of an argument

‘You need to know when to let things go and when to fight your battles.’ – Sarah Newitt

James’s final thoughts were focussed on making understanding the relationship between design print, and, contrary to what many people might expect, making the point that a digital-first approach without a full schooling on the many possibilities of print can lead to rather bland outcomes.

‘The grounding in design for print really helps when moving into digital design. With a purely digital background you’re very grounded in the use of grids, having a print background gives a much more fluid approach.’ – James Hannaford

We’re tremendously grateful to all our visitors for giving up their time to inspire and inform the next generation of Reading graduates. We’ll be keeping an eye on what they do next, and looking forward to another round of Alumni talks next term.

Join us for our February 2019 postgraduate open day

The Department of Typography & Graphic Communication warmly invites prospective MA applicants to visit us for a postgraduate open day. The open day will be held in the Department on Thursday 28 February 2019 from 10.15–14.00. It’s a fantastic opportunity to find out more about the specialist postgraduate study routes we offer through exploring the work of past and present students and talking to our subject experts in Book Design, Communication Design, Creative Enterprise, Information Design, and Typeface Design. We’re also planning some talks that incorporate highlights from our world-renowned Collections and give you a taste of teaching and research at Reading.

We look forward to sharing with you exciting developments about how we’ve refreshed our postgraduate taught programmes to build a stronger, integrated typographic foundation for research and practice across all programmes and specialist pathways. We’ve introduced a new general Communication Design pathway to complement our well-known established pathways in Book Design, Information Design and Typeface Design. These four specialist pathways are all offered as part of our newly renamed MA Communication Design – the ideal degree for anyone wishing to develop their professional practice within a world-class research environment.

Postgraduate student Darryl Lim looking at student displays of work including digital and printed projects

In addition to the practice-intensive pathways for the MA Communication Design programme, we also offer a multidisciplinary Creative Enterprise programme and two research-intensive programmes. Our MA Creative Enterprise is designed for individuals who wish to combine their study of research and practice in Communication Design with studies of management and law for the creative sector. Our MA Research Typography & Graphic Communication is the ideal route to prepare you for independent research and doctoral study and our MRes Typeface Design is a bespoke route for experienced, practicing typeface designers who want to develop a deeper understanding of the historical and theoretical aspects of their field.

To register your interest, please email Victoria Gifford –

Two postgraduate students looking at historic posters in our Collections

Oxford University Press

Part 2 students who opted to design book covers for Oxford University Press in their design practice module this term were lucky enough to be given the opportunity to visit OUP headquarters in Jericho, Oxford last week.

The project involves the redesign of an existing set of AS and A Level psychology textbooks, which students have been working on since the start of term. Attending weekly feedback sessions, students’ work has developed week by week with focus on idea generation, exploration, illustration, hierarchy and typographic elements.

Having reached a stage in the project where concepts and ideas are beginning to form considered design pieces, students met with Fiona and Georgia from the design department at OUP for the first time since they gave the initial project briefing. They gave us a fresh outlook on the designs, offering valuable industry knowledge to help with developments and improvements we could all make. The designers were very helpful and enthusiastic about everyone’s work.

‘I thought that the feedback session with the designers was very insightful and I enjoyed hearing their different perspectives on our designs’ – Shiv, Part 2

As well as receiving this feedback from members of OUP’s design team, students were given a full tour of the OUP headquarters. This included an insight into the different design studios in the building such as children book design and educational book design (which our project falls under).

One of the OUP designers even talked us through her design process, including the style she uses when pitching concepts to clients. Students even got a sneak peak at some yet to be approved design concepts!

‘The best part for me personally was when they showed us their designs and what they are working on at the moment as it was useful to see how their design process works and the quality of their work’ – James, Part 2

‘I enjoyed the tour of the design studio, in particular, looking at the developmental work which the designers were currently working on. I also thought that the tour of the printers house and the history of the press was very interesting’ – Shiv, Part 2

Visiting the studio with tutors Jean-Louise Moys and Geoff Wyeth, they too had an insight into how the Oxford University Press is run, through a tour of the on-site museum and a thorough look through their library, home to thousands of OUP books.

‘From my perspective it was a very valuable day. To feel the history of OUP, that can trace itself back to the early days of printing in 15 century England, to see examples of Fell type matrices from the late 17 century in their own museum and then also benefit from the experience of a team of practicing professional designers made the visit such a unique experience’ – Geoff Wyeth

Overall, the trip gave Typography students at the University of Reading a unique insight into the world of publishing, an area many students wish to go into one day. Working on a brief set by a client so established in their field really gives Part 2 students a sense of what it is like working in the publishing industry, and a great opportunity to showcase their work.

Bauhaus typeface revived by MATD student

Adobe’s “Hidden Treasures” programme kicks off the typographic commemoration of the forthcoming centenary of the Bauhaus school by releasing four revivals based on lettering by Bauhaus staff. Drawing on original material in the archives of the  Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, a group of current typeface design students were selected to work on digitising the original lettering, extrapolating the missing letterforms and characters to fill out the required character set, and adapt the designs for digital formats. The fast-paced project was led and supervised by Ferdinand Ulrich and Erik Spiekermann, and included in-person meetings in Berlin and Dessau, online collaboration, and a launch event in New York City.

Ferdinand Ulrich, Hidetaka Yamasaki, and Erik Spiekermann being captured working on the Bauhaus project. Image by Robyn Steffen

Each of the four typefaces were revived by a student from a typeface design course: Hidetaka Yamasaki, a current MA Typeface Design student, worked on lettering by Carl Marx; Céline Hurka from the KABK on letters by Alfred Arndt; Luca Pellegrini from the ECAL on lettering by Xanti Schawinsky; Elia Preuss from HGB Leipzig worked on letters by Reinhold Rossig; and Flavia Zimbardi on letters by Joost Schmidt. The typefaces are released gradually through Typekit’s subscription service to professionals using Adobe’s dominant suite of applications, and are a superb example of archival material inspiring contemporary design.


Have you thought about doing a PhD in Typography?

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Our experienced supervisors welcome applications in the history, theory and practice of design for reading. Here are some of our recent and current PhD topics

If you have any ideas do get in touch with Sue Walker for an informal chat, and to discuss funding opportunities.

Why not join us as an AHRC-funded Design Star student?

Our Graduate School at Reading is excellent, and provides a stimulating environment.

And the experience we provide in Typography is world leading, not least because much of our PhD work is supported by our outstanding collections and archives, and the research training we provide.

Gold and silver placements at Design Portfolio


One of the digital projects Typography students Louise Lee and Sophie Rahier worked on during their placement at Design Portfolio.
One of the digital projects Typography students Louise Lee and Sophie Rahier worked on during their placement at Design Portfolio. (image used with permission from Design Portfolio).

Part 3 students Louise Lee and Sophie Rahier completed an exciting placement at Design Portfolio’s Canary Wharf office during the summer vacation. Louise, Sophie and Anna Scully were the gold, silver and bronze winners of the 2016 Vince Ma Prize, which is awarded to the best performing students in Part 2, and includes a placement for gold and silver winners.

Louise and Sophie said the experience was “a real insight and great lesson on how projects are managed within a design agency”. They agreed it was an “enriching” experience for student designers.

During their placements, Louise and Sophie jobs undertook a range of design tasks, ranging from simple photo editing to website redesigns. The projects they worked on included branding, designing icons, and working with a range of material and deliverables. They also had an opportunity to apply their production knowledge since they were able to oversee a full design project being sent to print.

Louise and Sophie said: “The Design Portfolio team were very keen to have us involved, asking for our opinions as well as giving us the opportunity to attend client meetings. At these we presented our own work and had the chance to explain the rationale behind it. We were also given permission to share the work we were involved in and present them in our portfolios, as well as finishing off other briefs that we did not get to see through to the end.”

“Communicating with the rest of the Design Portfolio team (not just the designers) was highly important and added a new dimension to the design work. Whether it was with clients, marketing, or production, it was great to collaborate while still maintaining a certain freedom as designer, which is something that can’t easily be experienced through coursework.”

“Overall, working at Design Portfolio was invaluable experience, and taught us a lot. We’ve realised that even within a corporate design agency, the diversity in their jobs and clients provides an abundance of new and interesting challenges to a designer, which definitely builds versatility. Although we did not imagine a placement to be so enriching, we can now see why they are encouraged since the end of first year, and would in turn definitely recommend applying for one even if you are not 100% sure of what area of design you would like to pursue.”

They added: “It was also great to learn new life-saving keyboard shortcuts in which we cannot wait to share with our fellow coursemates!”

Minister for disabled people visits Reading

Dr Jeanne-Louise Moys and our recent graduate Ryzard Akita showcased Ryzard's inclusive design project at yesterday's Ministerial visit to the University
Dr Jeanne-Louise Moys with graduate Ryzard Akita following their presentations to the Minister
Penny Mordaunt, Minister for disabled people, health and work visited the University yesterday to find out more about our transformative Breaking down Barriers project on inclusive design.
Penny Mordaunt, MP visited the University to meet our Breaking down Barriers team.

Yesterday, Penny Mordaunt, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work visited the University of Reading to find out more about our transformative Breaking down Barriers (BdB) project.

BdB focuses on embedding inclusive design in our curricula across the University. Typography have been highly involved in the project from its inception and were proud to present the ways in which we are engaging with inclusive design across a range of applications including digital, print and wayfinding design.

In particular, we were pleased to welcome Ryzard Akita, one of our 2016 graduates who is now working as a user experience designer, back to Reading. Ryzard presented his final year self-directed project – an innovative mobile app for visually-impaired users – to the Minister. Some of our recent MA and undergraduate dissertations on inclusive design were also on display for the event.

The Minister also engaged with some of the simulation tools we have been using in our courses to increase students’ awareness of the everyday challenges people face in terms of mobility, dexterity and visibility. She praised the project, saying: “Inclusivity and accessibility should be at the forefront of good design, and I’m delighted to see the University of Reading leading the way with their Breaking down Barriers scheme.”

A July like any other in Reading

Ribbon ceremony
Ribbon-cutting ceremony in the Art Department gallery.

The Department of Typography did not get the memo that July is supposed to be a quiet period. We kicked off the month by hosting the KSBDA International Invitational Exhibition, its first stop after Seoul, and on its way to Katowice, Poland. The exhibition, attended by members of the current Board of the KSBDA and several past presidents, was held with the kind collaboration of the Department of Art. The visitors had the opportunity to examine material from the Collections in Typography, and discuss their use in teaching.

Michael Twyman at ICTVC
Professor Michael Twyman delivering the opening keynote at Thessaloniki.

The second week of July saw many staff, research students, and postgraduates fly off to Thessaloniki, to take part in the 6th ICTVC conference. The triennial event is spearheaded by alumnus Dr Klimis Mastoridis and aligns closely to the research strands of the Department. Several members delivered papers, and Emeritus Professor Michael Twyman delivered the opening keynote.

Monotype celebration
Celebrating the Monotype Studentship, from left: senior designer Malou Verlomme, Type Director Dr Nadine Chahine, the VC Sir David Bell, and Head of Department Professor Eric Kindel.

Back in Reading, we marked the tenth anniversary of the Monotype Studentship, a substantial initiative in funding support for our postgraduates. The Studentship is only one element of our deep collaboration with the company, which stretches from research support to technical training.

Over the two last weeks of July the Department was taken over by the annual TDi summer course. The international cohort (with participants from Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Dubai, India, Jordan, Korea, Malaysia, UAE, USA, as well as European countries and the UK) spent long days in sessions led by several members of the Department’s staff and student community, working in our studios, with material from the Department Collections, and personal staff collections. Through lectures and seminars, to hands-on sessions with archival material and letterpress equipment, the TDi provides a unique distillation of key areas of the Department’s narrative on typography and typeface design. Marek Jeziorek documented this year’s course in several albums, starting here.

Soapbox host one of our typography summer placements

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Visiting student Gabriela Lyrio Assreuy (far right) joined design studio Soapbox for her summer placement. Gabriela is pictured here with Soapbox’s team of Reading alumni from our BA and MA programmes (from left to right): Žiga Kropivišek, Megan Weston, Francesca Romano and Rachel Bray. Photo: Cormac Bakewell

Our Part 2 visiting student, Gabriela Lyrio Assreuy is spending her summer enjoying a stimulating, two-month placement at Soapbox. The London-based studio specialises in design that ‘helps leading policy, research and advocacy organisations to communicate their ideas’ and is the home to a number of Typography alumni from our BA and MA programmes (see pic). 

Gabriela says: ‘At Soapbox I’m having the opportunity to watch closely how a successful design studio is run and how to deal with real demands, clients and timelines. Besides that, I have been able to work alongside other designers in different sorts of projects mostly permeating print design, such as publication design, infographics, branding. From typesetting to creative design processes, I am putting my abilities to practice and gaining new valuable skills and knowledge that will be essential to build a successful career.’

Soapbox designer and MAID alumnus, Žiga Kropivšek commented: ‘Introducing new colleagues to the work process is always a struggle, that is why working with Gabriela has been such a delight. She was very quick to learn all the tricks and, coming from Reading, we knew she would have a sharp eye for typographic detail. It has been very valuable for our company that we could entrust her with more complex jobs so quickly and her ambitiousness and creativity surprise us again and again.’

Gabriela is a visiting student from Brazil. She has spent this year at Reading as part of the Ciência sem Fronteiras (Science without Borders) scheme. Since 2013–4,Typography & Graphic Communication have hosted three visiting students as part of this scheme. It’s been great having Gabriela in our part 2 cohort and we wish her well as she returns to her studies in Brazil.

Award-winning student banner design

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Congratulations to Part 1 student Emmeline Hewstone whose exhibition stand and banner designs won third place in Design Wizard’s 2015/16 competition.

Emmeline’s minimalist design concept was inspired by the Swiss typographic design she studied  in our history of graphic communication module. She says:

To appeal to prospective design students, I needed to create a consistent brand. I took inspiration from a design style that I have never experimented with before, but one that I absolutely adore – Swiss typography.

I wanted to represent the historical and educational aspects of the course, having been exposed to Swiss typography and its influential designers through lectures and seminars focusing on the history of graphic communication.

So, feeling inspired particularly by the likes of Josef Müller-Brockmann, I created a minimalist, primarily typographic design following a grid structure which is so commonly seen in Swiss typography.

We look forward to displaying Emmeline’s award-winning banner at our forthcoming open days.