Fiona Ross

University of Reading, UK


The analysis of printed characters: reflections on typographic history and textual representation

The importance of type design and typography for visual communication has long been recognized – at least by those who have been engaged in its practice and use – as a means of giving voice to diverse linguistic communities. Yet, with rare exceptions, the significant roles of type designers, type manufacturers, and typographers in conjunction with the specificities of the types designed, manufactured, and employed even in notable texts have tended to escape rigorous analysis in the history of print cultures. Fiona will discuss how the analysis of printed characters and their use, contextualized within their political, social, and cultural environments, in the light of synchronous technological developments can illuminate wider historical enquiry. Illustrated by examples from her extensive research and work with South Asian writing-systems, this talk will consider how examining printed documents through a typographic lens can provide an additional perspective in the analysis of historical and contemporary printed material.


Fiona Ross specializes in non-Latin type design and typography, having a background in languages with a PhD in Indian Palaeography (SOAS). From 1978 to 1989 she worked for Linotype Limited (UK), with responsibility for the design of their non-Latin fonts and typesetting schemes. Since 1989 she has worked as a consultant, author, lecturer, and type designer; her recent work as a designer has been in collaboration with Tim Holloway, John Hudson, and Neelakash Kshetrimayum for clients such as Ananda Bazar Patrika, Adobe, Microsoft, Monotype, and for Harvard University Press on the Murty Classical Library of India project. In 2003 Fiona joined the Department of Typography and Graphic Communication at the University of Reading (UK), where she is Professor of Non-Latin Type Design and Curator of the Department's Non-Latin Type Collection.

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