Katherine Gillieson  Design & Writing

Archive for the ‘research’ Category

Design and Nature

Thursday, December 5th, 2019

I was approached by Louise St. Pierre, one of the 3 co-editors of this book, over 2 years ago to talk about design. Edited by Kate Fletcher, Louise St. Pierre, and Mathilda Tham, this extensive volume includes 25 diverse chapters on design, nature, ethics of care, and related topics. It was a pleasure to work on and I am generally pleased with the result. The background image for the cover is supplied by Oscar Gillieson-Ashdown and is one of his outdoor splatter paintings.

The book can be found on the Routledge site.

The Stationery Project

Friday, August 31st, 2018

This is a practice-based design research initiative to repurpose the used, one-sided printer papers at the Emily Carr campus to create beautiful, useful, practical stationery items for the use of the entire community.

Many one-sided prints are produced on the new campus; the new Riso printer in the COMD lab was the inspiration as it produces an exceptionally high number of test prints (to achieve a good coverage of ink on any new master), and there are photocopiers and laser printers all around the new campus that people routinely use that inevitably produce unwanted or draft printouts. Proposed solution: use a systems design/material audit, bookbinding, printmaking and other knowledge and skills to develop stationery items that can be used by the entire community. This means that we are recouping and re-using this paper rather than sending it to get recycled.

The long-term the plan is to create an internal system that could routinely recoup the raw materials needed for our stationery. The sustainability of this concept requires some initial research and investigation into the paper use and waste, experimentation into possible formats and binding methods, and the development of a feasible production and distribution and/or sales process.

Information+: interdisciplinary practices in information design and information visualization.

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

Information+ was an interdisciplinary conference, workshop, and exhibition aimed at bringing together researchers, educators and practitioners to discuss opportunities and challenges in information design and information visualization. The inaugural Information+ conference was held in June 16–17, 2016, at Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver, BC, Canada, with the workshop taking place on the 18th and the accompanying exhibition Information Everything, co-curated by Katherine Gillieson and Gillian Russell, running through the month of July in the Concourse Gallery at Emily Carr.

Co-organized by Katherine Gillieson, Emily Carr University of Art + Design and Isabel Meirelles, OCAD University, Information+ 2016 would not have been possible without financial support from our home institutions as well as the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Information Everything, the exhibition of Information+

Saturday, February 6th, 2016

As part of Information+, I am co-curating the exhibition Information Everything (June 17 – July 30) with Gillian Russell (independent curator, PhD candidate in Design, RCA, London).

This exhibition will reflect on dynamic developments in the areas of information design and visualization, highlighting the work of practitioners who bring innovative and experimental approaches to negotiating information. To submit a work for consideration please refer to the submission requirements in the CFP below, or visit the website.


York University design workshop: mapping identity

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

I visited Toronto in November to take part in the 2nd annual RGD Design Education Conference, and added onto this trip a fantastic visit to York University Department of Design; I was able to present some of my work in a public talk and 2-day mapping workshop which builds on past work in the area of mapping public spaces (see Virtual Itineraries), as well as the Granville Island mapping workshop undertaken at Emily Carr as part of The Commons event for 3rd year design students.

The workshop is exploratory and encourages participants to analyze  and re-interpret some aspect of a constrained geographic space; at York this was the campus itself. The goal is to achieve a speculative re-thinking of the space, in addition to representing it in some way. The student group was very diverse and enthusiastic and the outcomes of the project were similarly diverse; sound recordings, a book on the campus’ empty spaces, symbolic space diagrams and a mobile app are some of the outcomes produced. Thanks to the students and staff at York for making this visit possible!


Virtual Itineraries
Concept, project, workshop on public lettering

Thursday, May 10th, 2012


Virtual Itineraries is a project about environmental lettering; the workshops encourage learning through a direct exploration of the city. Participants are encouraged to roam around urban sites to document examples of signs and lettering using mobile phones and digital cameras. They then share the results online using social software, to create freely accessible, geotagged databases of public lettering. The project, which I developed with the help of Eric Kindel, was funded by CETL (Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning) and builds on a tradition of teaching about lettering and signs in the Department of Typography in Reading.




At the core of this workshop is the creation and sharing of public lettering in a shared virtual space. Participants venture out into parts of the city to record examples of lettering, which range from the monumental (stone carving, incised metal plaques) to the vernacular (hand made or generic neon signs, graffiti). These include commercial signs, historical artefacts, wayfinding signs, and more.

The resulting collections are uploaded to the social software media-sharing site Flickr and tagged according to our series of descriptive categories for lettering, construction techniques, and genres. They are also geo-tagged, enabling the mapping feature in Flickr. The resulting media pool is a virtual lettering map that traces the journeys of participants, and that serves as a database of public lettering in the city. See for instance the Reading pool of 2010/2011, and the collection assembled by screen typography students at the University of Cooperative Education in Ravensburg, Germany.




VI may be run in small groups, which promotes conversation around individual sites and helps participants to trace and re-interpret their unique itineraries for the shared virtual space. The process preserves yet translates the materiality of environmental lettering in the urban landscape. Journeys are recorded with the help of common devices such as mobile phones and cameras, and the process of building of the digital archive occurs in real time and space. The workshop intentionally makes use of free, commonly available media-sharing sites so that the resulting pool of geo-tagged material is also available as a public resource on the internet.


Background and history

The Virtual Itineraries idea grew out of study trips taken by Reading staff and students to Italy. There, student groups studied and recorded civic inscriptions and ‘lettered’ sites in the extraordinary cities of Rome and Florence. Although the study trips are no longer taken, Reading was intent on retaining elements of the experience. The project also builds on the Department’s extensive archives and collections of public signage and lettering. Originally a collaborative venture between Reading and The Central School, the teaching archives of lettering of varying periods, forms, materials, locations, methods of making, etc, were entirely physical collections: photography, rubbings, publications, and more. The Virtual Itineraries workshop evokes the lettering collection but creates a participatory version through the use of social software and the exploration of locations nearer to hand. The digital aspect also helps to involve students in contributing to collections and archives, as the Department’s historical lettering collection becomes digitised. A Virtual Itineraries exercise offered both continuity to the notion of lettering tours and itineraries, and contributions to collections through the organised collection and sharing of visual records of sites.

Virtual Itineraries workshops have been held in Ravensburg, Germany and in Manchester, UK as part of the Futuresonic Social Technologies Summit in 2009; the project has been presented to the Sign Design Society and is regularly run as an undergraduate module at Reading, taking in sites throughout southern England.

See more:

The Reading pool for 2010-11

The Reading pool for 2009-10

The Ravensburg pool for 2008-9