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Robert Harland

Photo of  Robert  Harland

Lecturer in Visual Communication (Graphic Design)

Over the past three decades I have spent an equal amount of time in academia and industry. Having spent an extensive period in design practice in London (1986–2001), I returned to academia as a lecturer 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 (now Nottingham Trent University) in 1986.

Since joining Loughborough University in 2008 I have undertaken a number of key roles. I was recently elected to Senate (the University’s most senior academic body) and I am also a 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.

Throughout my career I have also been active in design education, as 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–present), 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 responsible examiner for the following modules:

SAP105 Design and Research

SAB936 Urban Visual Culture

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). I work closely with PhD students in this area, and recently co-supervised to completion Dr. Lingqi Kong’s research entitled A critical analysis of local and global cultural factors in graphic wayfinding design – a case study of Beijing. 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.

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 have undertaken the role of guest editor for a special issue of Art, Design and Communication in Higher Education on the theme ‘Territories of Graphic Design Education’, due to be published in 2017.

Recent external activity includes invitations to review papers for the International Journal of Design and The Design Journal. I am also an editorial board member for the journals Communication Design, and The Poster, and over the past decade I have regularly undertaken book, journal, conference and research grant review activity for Bloomsbury Academic, Berg Publishers, the Journal of Research Practice, Third Text, DRS, DRS/Cumulus, IASDR, and AHRC.

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


Current PhD supervisions:

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

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

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

Featured Publications 

Harland, R. G., (2016), Graphic Design in Urban Environments. London: Bloomsbury Academic

Harland, R. G., (2015), Graphic objects and their contribution to the image of the city, Journal of Urban Design, 20(3)

Harland, R. G., (2014), Seeking to build graphic theory from graphic design research. In Rodgers, P. A., Yee, J. S. R., The Routledge Companion to Design Research. London: Routledge

Harland R. G.(2011), The dimensions of graphic design and its spheres of influence, Design Issues, 27(1)


List of Publications