Katherine Gillieson  Design & Writing

Archive for the ‘design’ Category

Geographics: the AIGA Design Education conference in Hawaii

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

I was lucky to be able to make it to the AIGA Design Education conference in Honolulu, Hawaii, in December. It was a lovely break from our rigorous travels through Northern winters! Here is a review of the event for the Eye magazine blog.

The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

A few years ago I spent some time writing some short pieces on the history and significance of a series of classic pieces of graphic design for a compendium to be published by Phaidon.

The publication got delayed and I was sorry not to see this work in print. I have just heard however that the work is due for publication in September 2012! The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design will not be a book, but an archive box containing 500 loose cards. My contributions include Byrne’s The Elements of Euclid (1847), the pie chart, the typeface design Chicago (1984), Sutnar’s Catalogue Design Progress (1950), and more. The wide variety of pieces included in the volume aims to reflect the breadth of classic and exemplary design objects produced since the age of mechanical reproduction. This is a tall order; I look forward to seeing the final product.

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

Information Design Conference 2012

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

I’m looking forward to the Information Design Conference 2012, which is taking place tomorrow and Friday on the stately grounds of the University of Greenwich. It will be good to see old colleagues and take in the great diversity of topics that are included in this year’s programme. As a committee member of the Information Design Association I’ll be chairing a panel Friday, and look forward to some lively debate on ‘Collaboration in Design’!

AtypI 1976 souvenirs in the Department of Typography

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

After my second leave, I returned to the pastoral grounds of the Department of Typography again last week. Some lovely and deceptively old specimen sheets, created during the ATypI conference held here in 1976, are on display in the main hall.

The Science Project revived

Monday, June 21st, 2010

Having just returned from maternity leave I am pleased to share my newest post to The Science Project, a short introduction to the NCBE at Reading; thanks to Alice Bell for keeping the blog alive for the better part of a year!

Sign Design Society, the December talk

Friday, November 13th, 2009

Looking forward to presenting Virtual Itineraries: Reading the City in December for the Sign Design Society. Will be reviewing workshops in Ravensburg, Germany as well as in Reading and Manchester, UK.

Virtual itineraries in Ravensburg

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

Looking forward to teaching at the UCE Ravensburg again in November. Will be running a ‘virtual itineraries’ project to create a shared, geo-tagged collection of environmental lettering and signage with the students.

Isotype in context

Monday, August 11th, 2008

Starting to think about that panel on Isotype at Networks of design, a Design History Society conference in Cornwall (3 to 5 September).

Twitter updates for the Information Design Association

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

infodesign.org.uk is up and twittering! find us here.