Talks archive

This section features the content from our our previous talks. We hope you will find it useful.  Where you see the  sign you will be able to listen again to the talk recording.  Please note this facility is for member's only if you would like to join the Sign Design Society please click here for our packages.

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Towards clearer sign language

A Talk by Martin Cutts, Research Director of Plain Language Commission

towards-clearer-sign-languageAfter getting a £100 ticket from a private parking company, Martin Cutts won a court case in 2011 because the judge found the car-park’s signs unclear. He appeared in a BBC1 Watchdog programme (click here for youtube link), which focused on the case, and he has recently addressed a conference attended by leading British Parking Association officials.

Martin notes that this year the private-parking industry will charge two million motorists up to £150 a time for supposed contraventions of car-park rules, eventually pursuing them for around £160 million in total. About 65% of ticketed motorists pay these non-statutory ‘fines’ without question, persuaded, he will argue, by a combination of unclear and misleading signs, complicity by government agencies, and bombastic legal letters. The other 35% resist, but only a handful of cases go to court.

Environmental branding - graphic design for cities

A Talk by Chris Edmunds, United Creatives

Environmental branding-graphic design for citiesUnited Creatives are a graphic design agency specialising in works for the spatial environment and embracing mediums beyond paper and ink otherwise alien to graphic design.

Inspired by a lucky start in Dutch design founder and Creative Director Chris Edmunds worked for BRS Premsela Vonk (now Eden Design) where an early grounding in Dutch design established an ethos for non-compartmentalised design whereby art, branding and architecture were seen as a cohesive whole.

Practical Human Factors and Sign Design

A talk by John Wood, Executive Chairman, CCD Design & Ergonomics

practical-human-factors-and-sign-designHuman factors is regarded as a dark art whose practitioners have a tendency to respond to queries with ‘well it depends’.

This talk is intended to dispel any such myths and to give practical examples of the application of ergonomics in two case studies. For the new cable car system, crossing the Thames in London, CCD ergonomists advised on the design and placement of signage in stations and cars.

Lighting installations

A talk by Jason Bruges

lighting-installationsJason Bruges Studio, formed in April 2002, design and build interactive installations across four key sectors. These sectors include architecture, art, experiential marketing and lighting design consultancy.

The company has an in house design studio and workshop, and is based in Old Street, London, a hub of the creative and digital industry in Europe. The studio has recently expanded to include a team based in New York.

Transforming Exhibition Road

A talk on the ongoing transformation by Edward Jones, Dixon Jones

transforming-exhibition-road 1Exhibition Road is home to some of Britain’s most important institutions and in 2004 was the subject of an international competition for design and masterplanning held by The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. This was won by Dixon Jones and by 2012, the narrow pavements will be gone and in their place will be a kerb-free surface the length and width of the road.

Pedestrians will have more space and vehicle speeds will be limited to 20mph.

The history of the Johnston typeface

A talk on Edward Johnston's Underground Lettering - a century of influence on signs and identity by Mike Ashworth

the-history-of-the-johnston-typefaceNearly a century has passed since the commissioning in 1916 by the London Underground group of the Johnston typeface. With this famous ‘sans’ lettering still in use by Transport for London and indeed with it being used as the basis for much of the signage for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, this illustrated talk will take a look back at the introduction of Johnston to the capital’s transport network and the role it has played in the evolution of the corporate identity of the Underground and other London transport modes.

Mike Ashworth is Design & Heritage Manager at London Underground and is responsible for customer-facing design of stations and trains. Previously a curator at the London Transport Museum, Mike has worked for the company for twenty years.

Type design

A talk on type design by Jeremy Tankard

type-designJeremy has been involved with typefaces and lettering since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1993. Initially he worked at Addison Design Consultants on the rebrand of Sabena Belgian Airlines, then moved to Wolff Olins where he worked on very early (pre-internet) interactive projects for British Telecom as well as the Heathrow Express brand identity and typefaces for BAA.

Changing times with ISO7010

A talk on safety signing by Jim Creak, Jalite PLC

changing-times-with-iso7010BSi is adopting the newly revised international standard for safety signs, ISO 7010, which has implications for many of the existing British Standards.

Some of the most important signs in our environments are those designed to assist people to escape quickly and safely from buildings in an emergency.  The UK prescribes the form of these signs and gives guidance on their placement through the multi-part Standard BS5499, which will be very well known to designers and manufacturers.

Part 4 of this standard is the code of practice for escape signing. First published in 2000, this is now subject to major review, especially in the light of new knowledge and revised international standards, the development of which has involved extensive contribution from the UK.

Jim Creak, editor of 'Means of Escape' Magazine and Managing Director of Jalite plc, has been involved in the field of safety signs for fire safety management for 25 years and is experienced in the compliance requirements for fire safety legislation and for the drafting of fire protection standardisation.

Jim will give an overview of how safety signs can influence human behaviour in an emergency and how international standards for content, design and testing support this, the extent of the changes proposed and the international context in which these are being made.  He will also talk about the process of risk assessment.

Environmental graphics

A talk by Morag Myerscough, Studio Myerscough


“I definitely like solving things. I love information and I love interpreting that information. Not one to take the usual approach, my work is innovative, exciting, bold and adventurous”.

Studio Myerscough is one of the UK’s more prolific studios, with a consistent stream of work for exhibitions, schools, installations, wayfinding projects and advertising, largely but not exclusively 3D and with a strong graphic signature driven by a feeling for type and lettering. Yet the studio is neither a big team nor a partnership, but the initiative of one woman, Morag Myerscough, with two assistants and a loose alliance of collaborators. 

Morag will talk about her background and training, and how she tackles the challenge of each new project.


Crowd patterns of behaviour

A talk by Alan Penn

crowd-patterns-of-behaviourAlan Penn, Professor of Architectural and Urban Computing at The Bartlett, University College London, will talk about 'space syntax' research into the way that the design of spaces within and between buildings affects the way that people move through them. He will focus on what this research tells us about shoppers, shopping and retail environments.

The research raises intriguing questions about the way that people find their way and how this generates specific relationships between the shop owner and the shopper.

Space Syntax is an advanced spatial technology as well as a highly influential theory of architecture and town planning. It was originally developed by Professor Bill Hillier and his colleagues at University College London (UCL), one of Europe’s premier research universities.

New Generation Rail Stations – will they be fit for purpose?

A talk by Nille Juul-Sørensen, Arup

new-generation-rail-stationsHow can transport systems and rail stations be designed to deliver a service for a new generation of passengers?

In recent years, technology has radically altered the way we live our lives and our social behaviour and demands have correspondingly changed.

The next generation of transport users will be the first to be ‘connected digitally’ 24/7. Will the future design of interchanges – especially rail stations – and trains, together with associated wayfinding and information match these changes and the expectations of users?

How do we design rail stations in a way that is both sustainable and satisfying for the user? How can they fit to the very different urban fabrics of the world? Can we construct a very personal journey for both individuals and groups, to match the perceived benefits of car travel?

Nille is an award-winning architect who joined Arup after ten years as a partner in the architectural office of KHR Architects. He will give his personal perspective on some of these big questions using his experience on related projects around the world.

Some are Visitors

A talk by Lucy Holmes of Holmes Wood

some-are-visitorsLucy Holmes, founding Partner of Holmes Wood will talk about graphic design in the environment, making the leap from the printed page to a whole new world of scale, dimension, materials and working with few words rather than many in the built environment. Her talk will focus on the unique challenges of wayfinding and environmental graphics for visitors to museums and galleries - a cosmopolitan audience, especially in summer.


A talk by Sam Roberts

GhostsignsAdvertisements painted by hand directly onto the brickwork of buildings were once a common sight in cities, towns and villages across the country. The rise of printed billboards soon led to their decline but many still survive, often faded, clinging to the walls that host them.

In 2009/10 a nationwide effort led to the creation of an online photographic archive of these signs, hosted by The History of Advertising Trust (HAT). The project was conceived and led by Sam Roberts and in this talk he will share his findings and thoughts on what the future holds for these messages from the past.

Where’s the idea?

Creative-led signage & environmental graphics

A talk by Gareth Howat

wheres-the-ideaGareth Howat and Jim Sutherland, founding Partners of Hat-trick Design will talk about their creative-led approach to sign and environmental graphics design.

They will show a variety of projects, from wayfinding at Twickenham Stadium, to creating striking environmental graphics for one of Europe’s biggest property developers, to demonstrate their passion for engaging ideas.

Hat-trick Design was founded in 2001 as a truly multi-disciplinary consultancy, equally at home producing a powerful new identity, wayfinding & environmental graphics, print or web design.

They have won over fifty British Design and Art Direction awards, over a dozen Design Week award and featured in the Sign Design awards along the way. Clients include Dyson, Natural History Museum, Land Securities, Twickenham Stadium and the The Salvation Army.

Gateways To The National Forest, Midlands

A talk by Dale Lewis

gateways-to-the-national-forest-midlands1The National Forest is one of the Midlands' rapidly growing tourism destinations and strategic development of its visitor services infrastructure was identified as a key element of enhancing the destination.

The talk will look at how an integrated network of gateways was created to engage visitors in, and raise awareness of, The National Forest and its attractions. They also serve to create a greater 'sense of place’, an enhanced visitor experience and to reinforce the destination branding of the National Forest.

What does that sign say?

A talk by Roger Whitton

what-does-that-sign-sayYou are trying to get to somewhere and can’t find the sign that displays a road name. Imagine then, you have impairment and cannot get any road name information at all. How would you know where you are and where you are going? Fortunately, new wayfinding technologies can be incorporated into existing and new signs.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology allows information to be delivered to a user in a variety of formats. The two components of an RFID system are the ‘Tag’ and the ‘Interrogator’. A Tag transmits a signal and when an Interrogator encounters this signal the Tag is identified and unique information is delivered to the user. They can also be linked into personal electronic devices such as PDA’s and mobile phones. It would be possible to ‘flood’ an entire environment at a very modest cost.

Formula Legibilis - The principles of legible cities

A talk by Tim Fendley

Tim fendleyWayfinding in cities is fundamentally an issue of urban design and architecture. Recent projects in Bristol, Brighton and London have made extensive use of information design and legibility principles to respond to peoples needs. Where urban design is concerned with the space between the buildings, informationdesign is concerned with the space between the ears. This talk reviews the principles behind, and development of these recent legible schemes.

Tim is the founder of Applied Information Group, an advisor to the Helen Hamlyn Centre at the RCA and on the editorial board of the IDJ. He is a tireless speaker and campaigner for the development of accessible wayfinding systems for public places and has spoken on the subject to the London School of Economics, Reading University, the International Institute for Information Design - IIID, Vienna, as well as to SDS and many other venues around the world. As a UK member of IIID Tim also organised and convened a conference in London on the subject of wayfinding and transportation.

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