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Examining the Sans Serif typeface

The sans serif typeface is one of the most widely-used around the world, whether it be on your computer screen or on your smartphone. With the typeface’s history dating back to the nineteenth century, David Osbaldestin – postgraduate researcher and Deputy Course Director for BA (Hons) Graphic Communication – is conducting valuable research into the sans serif, its heritage and its use in the way we communicate.

Typefaces in modern culture

David, who is also part of the Centre for Printing History and Culture, the Printing Historical Society and Print Networks, has had a long-standing interest in typography. “I want to provide better awareness of the visual language that lives with us today,” he says. “My research began after I observed a revival of these nineteenth-century typefaces on mobile devices; a return to the application of early Grotesque sans serif types in contemporary culture. In order to understand this cultural shift, it was important to understand the history of these typefaces and how they were originally used in British print culture.”

The research project also looks into printed ephemera of the Midlands, collectable items that were originally expected to have only short-term usefulness or popularity. “I have studied a range of British ephemera experts, and will be assessing how people have used printed ephemera in historical research with the aim of establishing a new methodology for typographic researchers.”

Cross-disciplinary work

David is one of many postgraduate researchers presenting his work at the upcoming RESFEST, taking place on Wednesday 3 July. RESFEST provides PhD students with the opportunity to showcase their research to an audience comprised of different faculties and disciplines. “I think my work will resonate on several levels,” David says. “It’s about materiality, objects and how we can use these documents to interpret history.”

RESFEST’s cross-disciplinary approach is a step in the right direction, David believes. “I think it’s really useful in terms of providing a holistic picture of what research is happening here,” he says. “It’s very helpful to share good practice across the whole University rather than just one cluster or faculty. As a member of staff, it’s only when you attend the events that are cross-disciplinary do you make valuable connections and learn new approaches to extend our research.”

You can find out more about David and his research by visiting his website.