Week 3: Literature Review


Walthamstow is well connected to the centre of London but far enough out to foster its own identity. This observation is crucial to the typographic environment. Walthamstow has four areas that can be considered commercial centres: the first, Walthamstow Village; and the High Street that links with St James Street and Wood Street, all of which formed due to new transport links. These streets have been of interest to design critics and have been subject to various regeneration and heritage preservation projects.

In 2017, journalist Hatherley noted that on the High Street was an “assemblage of Lithuanian and West African grocers, Bulgarian restaurants alongside eel and pie shops, a plethora of charity stores, a busy street market mostly full of tat with the odd bit of gold. It is an exhilarating, warm and convivial fragment of a world where borders are irrelevant and nationalism a joke” (Hatherley, 2017). Map 1 lays out a selection of multicultural business signs on the high street that patch one end to another.

Turning our attention to typography, the High Street shop fronts as varied as their fares. Hatherley reflects on this, saying that “many of the old signs were and are naff, some of them very enjoyably so … What they do instead is display to the pedestrian that they’re in a place where people from every continent live without discord. Today, that means a lot” (Hatherley, 2017). Residents of the area might disagree that there that people “live without discord”, usually on social media; however, what tensions there are, play out in a subtle way that allows the High Street to exist in its ever-changing state.

St James Street

On the west end of the High Street, near St James Street station, a council regeneration project in 2017 has led to ire from locals and design critics alike. The shop facades were redesigned using colours from a muted palette with identical uppercase san-serif names, irrespective of the nature of the business. In an area survey in 2014, before work taking place, a report from the council stated that “reflective materials and inappropriate lighting can detract from the historic character of the conservation area and give an inferior quality appearance to the area. There are many oversized, internally illuminated and inappropriate signs within the Conservation Area” (Waltham Forest Council, 2014). 

Given that the council marked the area for historical conservation, the signage is not in keeping with what was there before. The views in 2013 are brighter in colour and less uniform than in the early 1900s. Still, I suggest the older photographs give a false impression, partly due to the monochrome photo processing. It is only an opinion that the signage “can detract from the historic character” and “give an inferior quality appearance” (Waltham Forest Council, 2014). It creates the sense of othering of the community.

Journalist Owen Hatherley believes that “urban coherence is a good thing. But the remodelling of the shop signs of Walthamstow is an anally retentive mistake, driven by a total misunderstanding of what makes London interesting”. He goes on to say that “this particular approach to conservation is a ‘sanitised version of the urban streetscape, with its heritage paint shades and expensive bread shops’ which is ‘as historically suspect as any other era’s vision of the past’” (Hatherley, 2017; Holland, 2009).

Holland argues that “‘for all its assumed sensitivity, it is ultimately more about a certain kind of pervasive middle class aspiration than it is about conserving the past’” (ibid.). This view is echoed in critical design writing: such projects exemplify how harking back to the past results in the outcome being “robbed of its authenticity and historical context” (Keedy, 1998). Lupton speaks similarly scathingly of nostalgic design, describing it as “a falsification of history, not a return to it; it treats the past not as the roots of the present, but as a distant entity” (Lupton, 1992). With the muted colour palette and modern san-serif typeface, the project is a hybridisation of historical features and contemporary aesthetics that neatly fits the nostalgia category.

It is easy to criticise work done in good faith to improve an area; however, the criticism levelled at this project is vital to forming future projects, such as Stowe Framework, that are as sensitive to the present as to the past. Four years on, new businesses use their own branding, in sharp contrast to the regenerated business signs and making the regeneration project appear contrived. This public work to restore the building facades and the walkways have been well-received. It is only the redesign of the shop fronts that overstepped historical conservation into sanitisation.


Week 3 overview

A rather more extended “What I Did” and “What to do Next” this week. In my research post I explored a recent project at St James Street.

People I contacted

  • I feel like I got on with Joe Pochodzaj in the first module and his projects align with me, so I’ve sent him an email to ask if we can have a chat about my project. I’ve kept it simple for now so I can build my project without any expectations.
    • OUTCOME: no response
  • Paekakariki Press – Session on Sunday
    • OUTCOME: A great day connecting with Matt and learning to compose by hand. Most interesting was the chat about type and history around the tutoring, and the people dropping in!
    • I’m not sure how to incorporate Paekakariki Press into this given that workshops are expensive, as will be making a new typeface
  • Fellowship Funding – Session on Thursday
  • Communities: ConnectingCommunities@walthamforest.gov.uk
    • ACTION: Contacted on Tuesday 6th October
    • OUTCOME: No response yet
  • Rendezvous Projects
    • ACTION: Contacted on Tuesday 6th October
    • OUTCOME: Meeting arranged for Wednesday 14th October, and some questions answered here.
  • Michael Shann – a poet working within Waltham Forest, and a fellow runner. I’ve contacted him on Twitter to see if he would be interested in getting involved.
    • ACTION: Contacted on Twitter
    • OUTCOME: No response yet
  • Land Art Agency – experienced in running environment and sustainability workshops.
    • ACTION: Contacted on Thursday 8th October
    • OUTCOME: No response yet
  • Fraser Muggeridge of Typography Summer School
    • ACTION: Contacted on Thursday 8th October
    • OUTCOME: No response yet


I got some really great feedback this week, mostly in relation to the scale of the project and funding. It’s great to imagine big, really big, but posting on the Ideas Wall and seeing Susanna’s response was a good wake-up call. I need to stop and take a step back and think what is possible.

How do I see the project in its full form, and what do I need to test to make it work. That test phase will be my project for this MA.

Next steps

  • If I am running this project as a test phase, I need to come up with a plan. What am I testing? I will need to research the local area and typography history.
  • Experiment with type I see in the area

Week 3: Funding

I am looking to apply for funding from Waltham Forest Council under their Make It Happen scheme. There’s a lot to think about: what is the schedule of the funding? what if I don’t get it? How will I run it then?

These are the details of the scheme: http://wfculture19.co.uk/fellowshipfunding

Here are the application questions:

Project Title:

Provide a short description of your project:   
Scoring criteria: Your idea (50 Words)

Tell us about your project idea; what do you want to do and why?    
Scoring criteria: Your idea, experience and delivery, outputs (1000 Words)

Identify at least 2 Make it Happen Funding aims that your project meets and tell us how you will achieve them.

Aim 1: How does your project meet this aim?   
(100 words)

Aim 2: How does your project meet this aim?   
(100 words)

Provide a brief summary of your recent, relevant experience. Please also include information about lead artists, or key project partners:   
Scoring criteria: Experience and project delivery (100 words)

Tell us how you plan on delivering the project. Please include details as much detail as possible, including information about venues/ partners/ accessibility/ sustainability:   
Scoring criteria: Experience and project delivery (250 words)

Outline your marketing and press plan for this project:   
Scoring criteria: Marketing and press (350 words)

How will you evaluate the success of this project? Include how will measure success against your project outcomes and how this work will influence your future plans.
Scoring criteria: Evaluation (350 words)

Should I go for it?

Before I got too far, I decided to ask the tutors what they thought, as the schedule of funding would really pressure my delivery for this course. Here is Susanna’s advice:

Week 3 Ideas Wall

I responded that “I hear you and am really taking it on board. I’m going to say in my process that I am aware of the funding and have thought about it. But first, I’m going to stop, reassess and scale it down :D”

It’s great that I’m thinking big and real world … but I can’t be stupid about this. I’m going to scale it down and think about what I’m really doing.

Week 3: Process

People I contacted

  • I feel like I got on with Joe Pochodzaj in the first module and his projects align with me, so I’ve sent him an email to ask if we can have a chat about my project. I’ve kept it simple for now so I can build my project without any expectations.
  • Paekakariki Press – Session on Sunday
    • A great day connecting with Matt and learning to compose by hand. Most interesting was the chat about type and history around the tutoring, and the people dropping in!
  • Fellowship Funding – Session on Thursday
  • Communities: ConnectingCommunities@walthamforest.gov.uk
    • Contacted on Tuesday 6th October
  • Rendezvous Projects
    • Contacted on Tuesday 6th October
  • Fraser Muggeridge of Typography Summer School
    • Contacted on Thursday 8th October
  • Michael Shann – a poet working within Waltham Forest, and a fellow runner. I’ve contacted him on Twitter to see if he would be interested in getting involved.
  • Land Art Agency – experienced in running environment and sustainability workshops.
  • The Mill
  • Chai and Chaat
  • Will Hudson from The Hudson Group

Prep for Webinar

For the webinar I have been asked to do the following:

  • A clear research question, with aims, objectives, purpose and audience.
  • 3 – 5 Research examples linked to your project, historical, theory, industry practitioners.
  • Outline the type of written submission you will be creating whether it is academic / research based or entrepreneurial / business based.
  • A sketch/ draft of your critical path outlining the logistics and resourcing plan for the project.
  • A list of collaborators/ connections/ contacts related to your project.
  • A list of ethical considerations in relation to your project

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the webinar at the time because I was ill, but here is what I have posted on the Ideas Wall:

On the Ideas Wall, Susanna have me feedback for my research question, which at present stands as:

How does vernacular typography contribute to a sense of place and belonging in the community? By exploring the multicultural borough of Waltham Forest, I will build a framework that can be applied in a community, be it geographical or cultural, and aims to engage people in the visual and social history around them.

She said that:

Week 3 Ideas Wall

She also went on to say:

Week 3 Ideas Wall

Much to think about!

Waltham Forest Funding

On Wednesday I attended an online session about applying for Make It Happen funding through Waltham Forest Council. To make my project work really effectively, I think that applying for funding will help me grow a lot more, but I can’t dream too big in case I don’t get it.

I’m going to start a new post about this as this will be an ongoing process.

Rendezvous Projects

I asked a few questions of Lucy Harrison about her projects:

  • Why did you start running projects around Walthamstow/East London?

Rendezvous Projects started with myself and Katherine running the Warner Estate project a few years ago as we both live in Waltham Forest. I moved here in 2009 but have been in east London since 1999 and Katherine has always lived here. I do work on other projects outside the area, but a lot of the ideas I have had in recent years are based on knowing about the place and the people.

  • How do your projects progress? Do you have a clear idea of the outcome at the conception stage, or do you let it develop?

All our Rendezvous projects, and most of my own as an independent artist, are funded in some way, so they need to be planned to a certain extent when doing the funding application, and there are certain things we need to try and aim for. Other aspects develop and some things don’t work out in the way they were initially planned which is just how projects involving people will always be I suppose.

  • What kinds of activities do people in the community, whether as contributors or as audiences, respond well to?

Hard to say… things that bring people together and make them and their stories feel valued, but it is quite a big question!

  • What challenges do you usually face in running the project?

It varies with each project to be honest and each will have its specific successes and challenges

  • How are your projects changing in response to Covid-19? (From your email, this might be a null question!)

At present there is very little funding to do our projects. Lightboxes and Lettering had pretty much finished at the start of the pandemic, our other project Sweet Harmony had to have an event cancelled and we focussed on the book and website more. But at present we are just waiting for things to pick up now that funding streams are slowly starting to open again. We’ll have to see what the funding criteria and priorities are when that happens.

I really like how Rendezvous seem to have clear stages and aims when I see them online. Of course, looking at a project afterwards is like this, but applying for funding means that like them, I need to have a plan, but still have room for the project to breathe.

GDE730: Redux

I’ve struggled with this module and to pin down the essentials of who I am and what I want to do. I went back to Week 1 to better articulate that because it’s up to me to show the world how to define me.

Using my wardrobes as a backdrop, I’m going to plan out projects so that I can see things ahead of me before I write them down. Three doors = three briefs. Expect those post-its to be a-fluttering in the breeze!

I’m going to go re-do a lot of work, because I’m not happy with where I started from and what I turned out.

Week 3: Songwriters Fonts

The Challenge

  1. Research and analyse naming and copyright issues, the basic pitfalls of illegal practice and the common areas of the copyright process, and the ethical and legal factors most frequently affecting graphic designers. Demonstrate through posting onto the Ideas Wall and in your research journal.
  2. Communicate clearly the key areas that may infringe copyright or require IP protection in relation to a chosen designed object. Present as a designed piece, incorporating an image of the chosen design and a typographically designed list of key areas.

Typography is one of my graphic design interests and so I thought that it would be appropriate to cover typefaces for this project. I am going to look at the specific example of Songwriters Fonts, how it was taken down due to copyright issues and through that look at typeface copyright law.


Paula Scher

It is well established that typefaces immediately give the reader a flavour of the piece of writing before the content is absorbed, and subtle changes in leading, kerning, line length and a myriad of other factors can greatly enhance or impede a reader’s experience with the piece. One subset of typefaces are esteemed overall as inviting the reader into the writer’s mind: handwriting.

The choice between Calibri and Garamond might tell something of a personality, but still comes with a set of expectations from the type designer and other examples where the typeface has been used before. Handwriting, though, is something more special. Whether or not you believe in the ‘science’ of graphology, which Wikipedia describes as “analysis of the physical characteristics and patterns of handwriting claiming to be able to identify the writer … or evaluating personality characteristics” (before noting that “it is generally considered a pseudoscience), handwriting draws the reader into the words. That someone has taken the time to write or annotate their words on paper is intoxicating when compared to mindless tapping on touchscreens. Annotations in the margins of books and poems similarly give us insight into famous people’s minds unadulterated by outside edits.

Take a look at Wilfred Owen’s draft for this seminal poem Anthem for Doomed Youth, annotated by Siegfried Sassoon, revealing their shared war experience and effort to convey that to their audience.

Original manuscript of Owen’s “Anthem for Doomed Youth”, showing Sassoon’s revisions

Tying into the world of design, take a look at one of Paula Scher’s maps:

The World by Paula Scher

Her hand-painted type gives these pieces spirit that would not be the same if the words were formed on a digital screen. Letraset would have the charm of appreciated craft and hard work, but not the same personal effect.

For millennia, humankind has sought to make their writing as uniform as possible so that it can be read by the literate – through scribes and then movable type. Now that with the ease and ubiquity of desktop publishing, the prestige falls on handwriting and handcrafted type. To use our own is personal, but with the weight of authenticity that handwriting undoubtedly conveys, what responsibility do we hold to use others’?

Handwriting is more connected to the movement of the heart.

Natalie Goldberg

Songwriters Fonts was a short-lived project in April 2018 that digitalised songwriters’ handwriting to create typefaces from people such as John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, Serge Gainsbourg, Leonard Cohen and David Bowie. Here are some images of handwritten lyrics by these songwriters:

Songwriters Fonts: David Bowie
Songwriters Fonts: Kurt Cobain

The typefaces were free to download and the project was featured on many websites, for example It’s Nice That, NME and Dezeen. The creators Nicolas Damiens and copywriter Julien Sans said about the project:

“Write songs as the ones who inspired you before. The Songwriters fonts have been created to give musicians inspiration. Writing lyrics with the handwriting of influential songwriters helps imagination to develop. Being in the mood of Bowie, Cobain, Cohen, Gainsbourg, Lennon, might be purely imaginative… but that’s precisely the point.”

After one week, the pair were instructed to take the website and download links down, saying in a statement that they had “been contacted by intellectual property rights owners, and are sad to announce that we have shut down this website because of legal issues. We’re sorry to have to say goodbye.”

I feel that the project was done out of love for music and wanting to inspire others, but can see how it is crossing the line. In the case of intellectual property law my feelings are beside the point, so what are the legal issues with this project? Some of this is going to depend on the jurisdiction that the design was created in: the designers identity as French and the website is registered as a .com with a Canadian company. The songwriters are a mixture of American, Canadian, British and French so the designers are likely to have come across lawyers from all over the world with differing copyright laws.

For the purpose of this work, I will consider UK copyright law as this will be the territory in which I work most often.

Handwriting vs. typeface

The original material used for the typefaces was taken from the handwritten lyrics of the songwriters and from what I can see, UK law on handwriting is unclear at best. The content of what is written would probably fall under UK copyright law, in particular the song lyrics which would be covered under the The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 which states that gives the creator rights “70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the last remaining author of the work dies, or the work is made available to the public, by authorised performance, broadcast, exhibition, etc.” (Copyrightservice.co.uk. 2020) However, Damiens and Sans don’t share the lyrics of the songs.

Also included in the source material were letters, “including Kurt Cobain’s suicide letter, on websites and public libraries to collect examples of the various glyphs” (Morris, 2018). As we have seen in the UK with the Daily Mail publishing excerpts of Meghan Markle’s letters to her father, the rights would stay with the creator and could only be shared if the work was published with permission of the creator. Again, a moot point because this covers content rather than design, and to go back to the source material I question whether it is appropriate to use a suicide letter for this project. Why not, if it were published already, but the use of it makes me uneasy.

Typefaces could be considered to fall under another section of legislation, computer programmes which the Copyright (Computer Programs) Regulations 1992 extended the rules covering literary works to include computer programs. In a 2001 case, GreenStreet Technologies was successfully sued by Linotype Library and parent company Heidelberger Druckmaschinen in the High Courts of Justice. Linotype Library claimed that GreenStreet was infringing the copyright of the design of four typeface families by including copies of the typefaces in its own software library without proper licensing or permissions. The court ruled in favour of Linotype Library as the company had gathered substantial evidence of the copyright breaches (Typeface copyright decision in UK High Court, 2001).

In the US it differs: “under U.S. law, typefaces and their letter forms or glyphs are considered utilitarian objects whose public utility outweighs any private interest in protecting their creative elements. However, there is a distinction between a font and a typeface. The machine code used to display a stylized typeface (called a font) is protectable as copyright. In 1992, the US Copyright Office determined that digital outline fonts had elements that could be protected as software.[9] Since that time, the Office has accepted registration of copyright for digital vector fonts, such as PostScript Type 1, TrueType, and OpenType format files.” (Intellectual property protection of typefaces, 2020).

I’m not sure this legislation applies as the source media and created media were different (from handwritten to typeface) and I am unaware of court cases that cross the media line.

The Leaky Cauldrion

In other handwriting examples, one founder of Mina Lima, Miraphora Mina found herself in a tricky position with her own handwriting. As an inhouse designer for the first Harry Potter film she had written the prop letter from Professor McGonagall in her own handwriting and therefore Warner Bros. considered it to be part of their intellectual property. This problem did not emerge for years until Mina Lima was taking on work outside the Harry Potter Universe and Mina wanted to use her own handwriting for new projects. She has only recently recovered the rights to use her handwriting in a professional capacity. I can’t find published proof of this and heard it from Mina Lima themselves at a walk. So, please internet, do not quote me.

Tiny Hands typeface

In a more solid example, BuzzFeed designer Mark Davis created a freely available font version of US presidential candidate Donald Trump’s handwriting, called Tiny Hand. It was created for a satirical piece published by BuzzFeed, which “purported to be pre-debate speech notes written by the candidate” (Tucker, 2016). The typeface seems to be taken from similar sources to the Songwriters Fonts but has not incurred any wrath from Donald Trump. Maybe he can’t tell his own insane ramblings from the ones written in Tiny Hand?

Although we must steer away from drawing graphological conclusions, the handwriting does lend itself to “for a font whose graphic properties are external traces of their author’s inner consciousness”. The font is “characterized by an odd mixture of capital and lowercase letters and by outlandish and looping shapes”, looking oddly like Disney and Comic Sans. (Donzelli and Bugden, 2019). The paper goes on to contextualise the creation of the typeface and that is very interesting, but beside the point for this post.

By using a typeface to create protest signs and point out Trump’s hypocrisies from the man’s own insults and smears against people seems, to me, a fitting spoof for the spoof of this presidency. The typeface has not received any comment or derision from Trump, considering that the font is named after his famed insecurity over his hand size. That, and that it takes direct letterforms that to form a method to produce slander that could prove damaging to his character and standing.

Right to identity & THE COPYRIGHT HOLDERS

Here I will keep with the same theme, that of identity, but return to my original example: Songwriting Fonts. The songwriters whose handwriting Damiens and Sans mimicked for their fonts had passed away at the time of release, the latest being Cohen in 2016. Death does not dissolve rights, though. Copyright laws extend past the point of publication for varying points of time, regardless of the living status of the copyright holder.

For typefaces, the copyright extends for twenty-five years “from the end of the calendar year in which the first such articles are marketed” (Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988). Some references the designers used might have fallen within this date – Kurt Cobain’s suicide note as one example. Because the songwriters are no longer with us might mean this project is much less likely to piss them off, their rights still exist and their estates hold the power to exercise them.

In the US, personality rights are more widespread than they are in the UK. If a celebrity feels that their image is being exploited in the UK, a lawyer will usually try to argue their case under traditional intellectual property law. I can’t find past precedent for typeface usage tied to personal image. Considering handwriting is personal, and how much physiognomy of typeface and the personality of the writer are tied together, I would expect that a lawyer could argue that manipulation of writing is an infraction on that person’s image.

We know from the statement released by Songwriters Fonts that the fonts were taken down after some of the estates contacted them to complain about the project. The details haven’t been revealed, and evidently, all parties felt the infringement was strong enough to warn the designers felt that the warning was strong enough to take heed.


When purchasing and downloading typefaces (here I am making the assumption this is done legally), the buyer has to agree to use the typeface within the constraints that the copyright holder sets out. One common division is between personal and commercial use, which can be further separated.

  • Personal: you can use a typeface for personal projects where generally you are not working for a client and you are not making money, but boundaries can differ.
  • Commercial: for a project for a client where you might or might not charge a fee, or where the client might charge a fee for the service/product

There are subtlities between the usages, as some foundaries might allow you to use a typeface for a pitch, trial or presentation so designers can reduce their costs of buying typefaces a client might not like. However, an appropriate license must be bought when the designer moves forward.

There are further points to consider, as typeface licensing takes into account how you are going to use it:

  • A desktop license enables “you to install a font on your computer and use it for a whole range of offline purposes” which includes most print applications a designer might use (Webster, 2020)
  • A web license means that you can use the font for online projects, and sometimes there is a viewer count: the more website or online project is viewed, the more it will cost to license. This is a good way to scale costs to allow small scale producers to access quality typefaces whilst ensuring the foundry/designers receive fair payment. For example, “Good Type Foundry charges €450 for its flagship Good Sans if page views are below 15,000 per month. The license scales up, reaching €2,600 if the site receives up to one million page views. (Webster, 2020)
  • An app license: for use in applications and programmes

Within this, there are many nuances and differing types of licensing again, as can be seen on the Dalton Maag website here. Combinations between online and print, personal and business, exist, as can be seen with their end-user licence which allows you “to install the fonts on any number of devices which you own or solely control, for simultaneous use by up-to-the-number of users specified. It allows you to print and produce personal or business documents, including PDFs, but this licence does not include webfont use, ebook distribution, or app distribution.” (Dalton Maag, 2020).

Of course, you could always download that knock-off Baskerville font for free and use it without shame, or any pride for your work. Maybe your reader won’t notice, but you’re breaking “don’t be an arsehole to your fellow designer” rules. There are no copyright laws, at least in. the US, about how much a typeface must differ from an old one to be considered a new font in its own right, so knockoffs are easier to pass off as new than a direct copy. Typefaces, good ones, take many hours to conceive and craft even if they are revivals of old typefaces and it is right that designers are paid for them.

Adobe and Google both have typeface licensing software for free typefaces for commercial usage, albeit with some restrictions but for the majority of designers, the licensing is sufficient. The typefaces are more functional than decorative, but no-one needs another font crafted from snowflakes, thank you very much.

The main takeaway from this section is that typeface licensing has many facets and can differ from foundry to foundry, and that font licensing software is available for large scale audience to keep track of their typeface use.


Damiens and Sans released their typefaces for free and given that they had spent a month making them, they seem to have done the work as a personal project as opposed to a commercial venture. It also harks back to their intention to inspire new songwriters by making them available to everyone. That intention is laudable.

Because they sought no permissions and paid no money to the estates, I could take the view that they should only be free. That being said, fonts are digital pieces of software that can be endlessly duplicated, and their ready availability means that Damiens and Sans had little control over what was created once they released the files. The typefaces could have been used to create malicious content that would damage the artists’ reputation and income. Although they would (probably?) bear no legal responsibility for this damage, it should have been a consideration in creation because they are enabling others. Instead of realising the typefaces to the world, could they have done a collaboration with the estate holders where young songwriters could use the typefaces in a closed system, perhaps?


In my opinion, I think that Damiens and Sans did not intend to aggrieve the estate holders for these musicians and that on face value they wanted to do as they stated: to inspire new songwriters. On the other hand, how they went about achieving that aim was tone-deaf, showing a shallowness of thinking, and that there are more appropriate ways of doing this. For example, either gaining permission to do this or hosting an exhibition (perhaps online) showing the whole artefacts from these songwriters using images with the appropriate permissions. Undoubtedly this approach would take longer than the one month they spent on this project. In balance, I think that Songwriters Fonts had noble ideas but they lacked awareness or carefulness in regards to personality rights that they should have looked into.


Week 3: Big Data


  • Choose one of the five examples of information design provided.
  • Analyse its effectiveness, the story revealed and the role both design theory and practice took in producing the work.
  • Write a 500-word synopsis of your analysis in your research journal and include visual references and highlights of the piece examined.
  • Create a piece of editorial design to portray your final synopsis and visual references.


Choose one of the five examples of information design provided.


I have chosen Diagram of the Causes of Mortality in the Army in the East by Florence Nightingale, 1858.

Analyse its effectiveness, the story revealed and the role both design theory and practice took in producing the work.


Figure A

Created in 1858 by Florence Nightingale after her experience of the Scutari hospitals during the Crimean War, the Diagram of the Causes of Mortality in the Army in the East (Figure A) represents the causes of death between April 1854 and the end of the War in March 1856. It takes the form of two polar area vortex graphs with coloured areas spanning out from the centre point to show the proportion of death split between wounds, preventable diseases and all other causes. The graph on the right shows the deaths of British soldiers setting out for the war when conditions were overcrowded and unhygienic. The left-hand graph is from a year later when Nightingale’s improvements and new sanitary systems were taking effect. 

The Crimean War was the first war to be covered by a foreign correspondent, William Howard Russell of The Times, who reported on the shocking conditions endured by soldiers and the Army’s shortcomings. Nightingale arrived in Istanbul in November 1854, followed six months later by the Sanitary Commission who flushed sewers and established a clean water supply. 

The diagram’s beauty is that it can be quickly understood and that its simple appearance belies a more ingenious complexity. At a glance, the deaths by preventable disease greatly outnumber the deaths from wounds and other causes. Reading through the accompanying notes, however, the reader becomes aware that the total deaths by preventable disease is overlapped by the total deaths by wounds and other causes thus making the situation more shocking than at first glance.

Area is key in the understanding of polar area vortex graphs. Rather than the total deaths being measured along the length of radius, the graph presents the total by the area of the segment. The density of the data stays constant no matter the distance from the centre point. The chosen colours differentiate suitably or each cause of death.   

Nightingale could have manipulated the presentation of data to emphasise the need for better conditions by not overlapping the causes of death, or have scaled deaths according to the radius instead of the area of the segments. The proportions, though, are large enough to deem the first method unnecessary, and the second misleading because the eye sees area rather than length. However, the presentation of the first graph to the right and the second to the left is unusual in modern design standards where readers would expect the information to flow from left to right: from the terrible conditions to improving conditions.  

The diagram was published in 1858 after Nightingale’s return from Crimea. She was met with resistance from the establishment who did not believe that the conditions in the army were so poor and that they could – and should – be improved. She was correct in understanding that tabulated data would not capture the attention of people who would affect change, and formulated the diagram with statistician William Parr to represent loss of life in a more tangible way. As a result of the diagram and Nightingale’s resolute campaigning conditions for the ordinary ranks of the army were overhauled and forever improved. 

Create a piece of editorial design to portray your final synopsis and visual references.

Editorial design is something I haven’t really done before: the few pieces I’ve done for this course have disappointed me later. I want to really experiment with where the type is positioned, the diagram and the white space this week so that I can practice getting something just right.


Collaborate through group discussions on the Ideas Wall.

Made with Padlet

Week 3: Development

The Tasks

  • Imagine and make one design response to your self initiated project brief, as outlined on your mood boards. Demonstrate your development. Upload initial ideas and sketches to the Ideas Wall and reflect in your blog.
  • Make prototypes and experiment with design and production techniques to ensure you engage with your target audience. Do not forget to record all tests, even if they fail, and add them to the Ideas Wall. Evaluate the success of your experiments in your blog.

Who is this project for?

This project is aimed at helping the design community and hiring departments to build and structure application forms in a way that would allow neurodiverse people to access the next stages of the application process.

Focus Group and Methodology

With the Youth Club of Knots’ Arts, I will conduct a short focus group in order to obtain research about what would help neurodiverse people fill in application forms. To do this, I will provide samples of application forms and ask the group what they like and dislike the forms, and how they feel they could be improved.

The research will be collected physically by way of notes on the application forms written by members of the group, and orally by myself and the leaders listening to their thoughts and concerns.

The forms will be paper forms sourced online. Many shops do have online forms, but for the practicality of the session and availability of technology, they will be printed forms.

Presentation of ethics and data privacy

The project’s aim is to reduce stress around application forms for neurodiverse people, so it is possible that this study will cause stress for participants

  • The research will be conducted with participants’ full awareness of the aims
  • I will take guidance from the Knots’ Arts leaders about language and how to structure the session
  • The session will be clearly signposted and of a clearly defined length
  • If any member of the youth group do not want to participate, they will be free to move away
  • Participants will be grouped together and will be able to work independently or with the group. The groups will be chosen by the Knots’ Arts leaders
  • The participants will be able to write down their thoughts or articulate them verbally to myself or a Knots’ Arts leader
  • Knots’ Arts leaders will be present and participate with the research with the youth group.
  • The participants will remain anonymous.


I had expectations for the outcomes and noted them down so that I would be aware of my bias. They were:

  • The group would prefer pale colour backgrounds compared to white
  • No background graphics would  be preferred
  • Lots of white space so that the information can be easily taken in
  • Tick-boxes would not be ideal
  • Larger typeface size and larger leading
  • Typefaces with large x-heights with clear differentiation between capital ‘I’s and ‘l’s.

Initial outcomes


The main concerns from the youth group came from data protection and how their information was going to be used. I assured them that applications are generally covered under privacy protection laws, however, this clearly still worried them, in particular, one participant who brought it up multiple times.

Many companies ask questions about how the applicant had heard about the job and whether the applicant had family working for the company (Argos and Dollar General). The group generally found these questions to be irrelevant and intrusive as they did not understand why the company would need to know this information.



The application forms were generally deemed too long and to ask too much information, with a particular reference to Dollar General. The Forever21 form was the most-liked form for the information asked as it was brief and the questions related to the information the group expected to be answered.

Although the forms were intended for part-time work, the group were concerned that they were asked for details of previous employment because many had never had jobs before.


The background of the Forever21 form, and that of Dollar General, were thought to be distracting and unnecessary.

As I said above, the forms requesting less information, such as Forever21, were favoured partly because of the lesser deceive of perceived intrusion and also because the pages were less cluttered. The typeface was larger and there was more white space around the text.


Where the forms asked for longer answers to questions, dotted lines were preferred as a guide for how much to write. It would be made even clearer if there were boxes around each question, further separating each question visually for the applicant.Application

On the Topshop form, the boxes to the right of the answers seem to relate to an internal process, but this was unclear to the youth group. Because no instructions were given to the applicant about what to do with these boxes, they were confusing.

Some forms asked for the applicant when they would be available to work. Although I had one hypothesis that tick boxes may mean neurodiverse people might have an issue with tick boxes, it was much preferred to the Toys’R’Us version. TopShop had a similar idea with a table, however, confusingly split the day between morning, afternoon and evening. I can imagine this would be confusing as the times are not specified.



Dollar General Application For Employment

Dollar General




The Comic Sans used for the Toys ‘R’ Us form was reviled as childish and as if the form was “made to look easy-to-read, and the Forever21 was considered unnecessarily fussy. All other typefaces were accepted.

There was a consensus that the typeface was less important than the size and leading of the font. Larger fonts with plenty of leading to create white space around the text was most important because it seemed less intimidating than a small, closely packed font.


The forms had minimal colour: most used black ink on a white background, presumably to reduce the cost of printing out each form. Topshop used colour for headings, which graphically indicated a change of section, however had an entirely black first page, which to me is a diabolical waste of ink.


A detail that seemed to concern the youth group was the distinction between “present address”, “current address” and “home address”. To them, it seemed unnecessary and confusing when “address” could have been used instead.


Questions such as “Why do you want to work for Argos/Topshop” was met with answers of “because I want to earn money”/”I want to have a job”. What would be a better way to pose this question so that the applicant would know what was asked of them? Questions such as “When have you delivered/received great service? What did you do/receive? How did you measure it?” (Topshop form) caused confusion and stress because the questions were grouped together: When, What, How. Participants would have preferred them to be separated, with a space for an answer between them.


Knots’ Arts Enlighten Form

In addition to the job application forms, I also asked the focus group to consider the Knots’ Arts Enlighten form. This is filled out by the parent or guardian of the person coming to one of their programmes and allows the person’s needs, likes and dislikes to be communicated to the leaders. If a neurodiverse person becomes distressed or is non-verbal, they might not be able to communicate their needs to a leader, and the form means that the leaders are aware of triggers and stress factors.

The leaders would like the form to be redesigned so that it is more accessible for the young people to fill out themselves, rather than their parent or guardian and have asked me to help as part of the project. This form was considered after the job application forms. The outcomes were:

  • What is the form for and how will the information be used?
  • Where will do I write my answers?

One young person comes to the youth club with their mother as they are mostly non-verbal. The mother explained that as a parent, she often had to fill out forms detailing her child’s ASC, and felt that it could be very upsetting when it focussed on her child’s triggers or behaviour that indicated that they were stressed. Instead, she thought that a focus on the positive attributes of the young person could be also highlighted in the form. Also, she felt that the form asked questions in the form of words, where perhaps symbols or illustration could be alongside the words so that people who found it more difficult to read could understand what was being asked. This could turn a form-filling task into an activity young person and parent/guardian could complete together so the young person has more agency over their care.

Analysis of outcomes

The most salient point that I drew from the focus group was that clear sign-posting is needed. Why is information needed? Where do I need to answer that question? This could be tackled in a number of graphical ways, including boxes and colour-coding.

Another conclusion to draw from the focus group that less information was needed: on both sides. Some questions were seen as intrusive and unnecessary by applicants, and if there were large blocks of text, it was confusing and the information was not taken in. Recruiters need to consider what information is actually needed at application stage, such a contact details, and what is only of interest to them, for example, “Where did you find out about this role?”


  • A clear statement that the information will be private and not shared
  • Information about how the applicant heard about the job should not be included
  • Avoid internal reference boxes
  • The members of Knots’ Arts Youth Group are unlikely to attend sessions set up to help them with job applications
  • Type should have plenty of space between lines, and blocks of information should be shorter so that they do not seem intimidating
  • Colour can be used as a sign-posting technique

Building a new form

I am going to build the form in Indesign, as this is the project I am most familiar with! For the typeface, I looked at Google Fonts and shortlisted these three:


before settling on IBM Plex Sans because I feel it is open and spacious, with clear tails on the ‘l’s.

I also want to make sure that the information asked was relevant so cut out much of the questions asked, whilst keeping in essential information. Here is draft one of the form:



Week 3: Webinar

Because I forgot my notebook at work!

01 Action: Imagine

02 Output: Printed matters

03 Purpose: Make sense of the world around me Articulate


Alice Marlow: Develop, Game, Play

Ella Brett: Illustration, Exhibition, Ponder/move (publish, in public space)




Kris Miller: Empathy, Experiential, Community


Alice Neve: Form, Fusion / Merge, Share

Gajan Panchalingam: Collaborate, Strategy, Reflect

John Prince: Dream, Poetry, Inform


Instinct vs impulse

Fusion, reflect, community, dream, imagine, empathy, collaborate, strategy

Gajan says equals compassion

What does that mean for my practice?