Creative Arts


Dr Robert Harland

Photo of Dr Robert  Harland

Senior Lecturer

Programme Director for Graphic Communication and Illustration

Dr Robert Harland has extensive experience in academia and professional practice.

He holds a PhD in Architecture (Social Sciences) from The University of Nottingham and an undergraduate degree in Information Graphics from Trent Polytechnic, Nottingham. During his early career he spent 15 years working in the creative industries in London, where he ran Harland Design (1991–2001) after working as a designer for Tatham Pearce Ltd. (1987–1991), where he was employed as part of the design team undertaking the worldwide implementation of Land Rover’s corporate identity. Furthermore, in 1999 he was one of three founding directors of the environmental graphic design practice Placemarque Ltd.

Since joining Loughborough University in 2008, Robert has undertaken several roles. In research, he currently leads the Urbanism theme for the University’s Built Environment Beacon. In 2016 he was elected to Senate, adding to his work as chair of the School’s Learning and Teaching Committee (2011–14). In learning and teaching he has played a leading role in establishing postgraduate and undergraduate education in graphic design at Loughborough, having led the establishment of postgraduate provision in the field in 2015, and the refashioning of undergraduate education since 2017 as a programme director.

Throughout his career Robert has been active in design organisations. In 2017 he was elected to the Design Research Society Council, and he has previously been a member of the education committees for the International Society of Typographic Designers, Chartered Society of Designers, and inaugural Chair of the Graphic Design Educators' Network (2014–19). He has also undertaken several postgraduate and undergraduate external examiner roles at the Northumbria University (2014–18), University of Leeds (2011-15), University of Chester (2009–14), and Bath Spa University (2008–2012).

During his time in industry, Robert undertook commissions for national and international public and private sector organisations 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, Greenwich Development Agency, Waltham Forest Borough Council, and Woodhouse UK plc.

Now, Robert’s primary area of research explores design for urban graphic information systems. This is framed by a longstanding interest in graphic objects as urban objects, and he uses the lens of graphic design as urban design to understand the micro, meso and macro scale at which people, place, purpose and performance are interrelated. He is currently leading the AHRC–Newton funded Repositioning Graphic Heritage project, the first ever project to receive external financial support in the subject area to which he is aligned at Loughborough University. 

Robert teaches research, masters and undergraduate students and is presently the module leader for:

SAP105 Design and Research

He teaches on several modules across all levels of provision, including final year dissertation supervision.

Robert’s research critically analyses the relationship between graphic form and urban context and explores the way design facilitates the function of graphic objects as urban objects. His urban location-based research benefits from close collaboration with local actors to bring both insider and outsider knowledge to bear on distinct urban units of analysis borrowed from urban design.

His personal research explores the ‘mesographic’ level at which urban-graphic-objects synthesise associated meanings determined by the perspective of individuals and groups of people. This is evidenced through photo-documentation and the composition of images that map meaning across multiple urban scales. Working both interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary, his research serves to provide theoretical insight into the explanatory and predictive ways that urban-graphic-objects function as both ‘process’ and ‘object.’  

He is currently Principal Investigator on a £250,000 AHRC funded project ‘Repositioning Graphic Heritage’ in collaboration with academics at the College of Design and Innovation, Tongji University, Shanghai. For details see Other recent research includes a three-year study into representations of Fascism in new town development in the Latina Province, Italy. 

In 2017 he established the Loughborough Urban Graphic Object Archive, a digital research and education resource for research collaboration and doctoral study. More recently, in 2019, he established the Graphic Design Research Unit at Loughborough to confront the research challenges associated with the field.



Robert has supervised 6 PhD students to completion and is currently supervising a further 4 candidates.


Every Tuesday in term time between 3:00–5:00pm

Co-founder and co-organiser of the Leicester Urban Observatory.

Member of the International Advisory Council of the Design Research Society.

Peer reviewer: Design Studies, She Ji, International Journal of Design, The Design Journal, Journal of Research Practice, Third Text, Bloomsbury Academic, DRS, DRS/Cumulus, IASDR, and AHRC.

Five PhD examinations at University of Reading, Birmingham City University, Sunderland University, Anglia Ruskin University, Plymouth University.

Undergraduate and postgraduate programme external examination roles at University of Leeds, Northumbria University, Bath Spa University, University of Chester.

Inaugural chair of the Graphic Design Educators’ Network.