School of the Arts, English and Drama

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Robert Harland

Photo of  Robert  Harland

Senior Lecturer

I have spent an equal amount of time in academia and industry. Having spent an extensive period of time working in the creative industries in London (1986–2001), I returned to academia and undertook a PhD in Architecture (Social Sciences) at The University of Nottingham (2011), adding to my first degree in Information Graphics from Trent Polytechnic, Nottingham (1986). 

Since joining Loughborough University in 2008 I have undertaken a number of key roles, notably as an elected member of Senate (2015–18), member of the school research committee, adding to previous work as chair of the school learning and teaching committee (2011–14).

My design practice experience involved setting up Harland Design (1991–2001), undertaking design projects for national and international public and private sector organizations in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Portugal, and Belgium, working mainly in the field of visual identity, literature and signage design. Major clients included the European Commission, Eurosport, Portugal Telecom, Lloyds Bank, Office of Fair Trading, Granada Television, Greenwich Development Agency, and Waltham Forest Borough Council. This followed time spent in the design consultancy sector at Tatham Pearce Ltd. (1987–1991), where I was part of the design team undertaking the worldwide implementation of Land Rover’s corporate identity. In the late 1990s I was a founding director of Placemarque, the environmental graphic design company specialising in wayfinding and branding in the built environment. 

Throughout my career I have been active in professional bodies, subject associations, and most recently learned societies. For example, in 2017 I was elected a council member of the Design Research Society. Other roles include being a member of the education committees for the Chartered Society of Designers, the International Society of Typographic Designers, and presently as inaugural chair of the Graphic Design Educators' Network. This has been supplemented with undertaking several undergraduate and postgraduate external examination roles at Northumbria University (2014–2017), University of Leeds (2011-15), University of Chester (2009–14), and Bath Spa University (2008–2012).


I teach undergraduate, postgraduate and research students, and I am presently the module leader for the following modules:

SAP105 Design and Research

My research critically analyses the role of graphic objects as urban objects, and is positioned at the multidisciplinary interface between design studies, visual culture and urban geography. The focus is on how urban graphic objects contribute to the identity, structure and meaning of cities, undertaken from the perspective of graphic design as urban design.

Essentially, I explore questions about the relationship between graphic form and urban context. Viewed through a continuum between type/typographic/graphic/urban design, this challenges ideas about what graphic design is, why it is relevant, what it can be, and how it is understood as a visual form of knowledge production. Key aspects of this are discussed in my first book Graphic Design in Urban Environments (2016). 

Current research themes include: the definition and understanding of graphic spaces in urban spaces; archival practice and its potential for classifying urban graphic objects in digital repositories; and, representations of fascism in new town development in the Latina Province, Italy. Some of this is available in the Loughborough Urban Graphic Object Archive, a digital research and education resource. Furthermore, I am co-founder and co-organiser of the Leicester Urban Observatory.

I am a peer reviewer for the International Journal of Design, The Design Journal, the Journal of Research Practice, and Third Text, and an editorial board member for the journals Communication Design, and The Poster. This adds to book, conference and research grant review activity for Bloomsbury Academic, DRS, DRS/Cumulus, IASDR, and AHRC.

Design education and pedagogic research are also areas of interest. I have published several conference and journal papers on art and design assessment criteria, as well as organising workshops at conferences and institutions both nationally and internationally. In keeping with this agenda, I recently edited a special issue of Art, Design and Communication in Higher Education on the theme ‘Territories of Graphic Design Education’.

Completed PhD supervisions:

Lingqi KongA critical analysis of local and global cultural factors in graphic wayfinding design – a case study of Beijing, co-supervised with Dr Malcolm Barnard

Tariq AlrimawiThe role of animation in Middle-East moving image culture, co-supervised with Prof Paul Wells

Steve HendersonCan We Fix it? Archiving and analysing ‘Bob the Builder’ – a resources paradigm and research method, co-supervised with Prof Paul Wells and Dr Adrienne Muir 

Current PhD supervisions:

Salman Asghar: The role of graphics for making a product design universal (working title),co-supervised with Dr George Torrens

Roberta Bernabei: Participatory jewellery and the application of CAD/CAM to imbue memory into material form, co-supervised with Prof Ian Campbell

Lena Fallata: The relationship between culture and aesthetics in product design: a Middle-East case study, co-supervised with Dr Malcolm Barnard

Mel Hani: Animation practice as therapeutic intervention, co-supervised with Prof Paul Wells

Mark SmithThe implications of the internet as a distributive system for moving image learning resources for art/design/media education in secondary school, co-supervised with Andrew Selby

Johnny Xu: Colour Identity in Urban Environments, co-supervised with Roberta Bernabei