photo of blue English heritage plaque and statue in Shanghai

Loughborough partners with Shanghai university as part of £250,000 heritage grant

Loughborough University’s School of Arts, English and Drama has been awarded a grant of £250,000 as part of a research partnership with Tongji University in Shanghai.

The two-year project, Repositioning Graphic Heritage, is being funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of their ‘Development through the Creative Economy in China’ initiative.

The project, led by Dr Robert Harland in the School of the Arts, English and Drama, has evolved from research undertaken by Loughborough PhD student, Johnny Xu.

Johnny’s research is about the importance of colour in urban environments, and how people associate colour with the identity of a place. Through colour research conferences, Johnny met Dr Zhang Xueing from Tongji University, where colour culture is a significant research theme within the College of Design and Innovation.

Identifying an opportunity for collaboration, Johnny’s supervisor, Dr Harland, invited Dr Zhang to visit the University in April last year.

Shortly after, Dr Harland was then invited to present at the International Colour Culture Conference held during Tongji Design Week and co-organised by Johnny and Dr Zhang.

The trio, alongside other colleagues from the two universities, then submitted an application for the Repositioning Graphic Heritage research project.

The aim of the project is to examine the ways in which urban heritage is communicated through graphic objects from the past, present and future. Graphic objects are those elements of visual communication that inform and embellish the heritage experience: brand visual identity, digital design, film and animation, packaging and point of sale, print and advertising, retail and environmental design, and even specific examples of typography, illustration or photography.

These include the familiar brown heritage signs, a blue plaque on a building that celebrates a famous former resident, a website about a heritage visitor attraction, or a listed monument or structure.  

The research has four key objectives:

  1. To establish a beneficial relationship between Loughborough University and Tongji University that will develop expertise in the challenges and opportunities associated with graphic design for urban heritage.
  2. Create a taxonomy of urban graphic heritage objects to inform future design, guidance and planning.
  3. Encourage interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary knowledge between design, planning and heritage professionals to benefit new and innovative creative industries and practices in the UK and China.
  4. Develop the relationships, knowledge and outputs from collaboration to explore opportunities to extend the research for future funding between the UK and China.

The project will run until September 2020, and the UK team will comprise of three individuals at Loughborough University: Dr Robert Harland, Professor Paul Wells and Andrew Selby, alongside a research associate who will be employed as part of the research.

The Tongji University team includes Professor Lou Yongqi, Dr Zhang Xueqing, Dr Du Qin and Shi Yin.