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Finding urban graphic heritage

Thursday 25 March 2021

People looking at an outside information sign

About this event

Urban graphic heritage is typically comprised of things such as old signs, old hoardings, and architectural lettering. This talk presents insights from a two-year project ‘Repositioning Graphic Heritage’ looking specifically at urban graphic heritage in its setting. It explores the relationship between graphic heritage and heritage interpretation, between presentation and representation, through case studies of a multitude of ‘signs’ in their urban settings.

Few people would doubt the merit of preserving graphic heritage as a form of cultural heritage, but exactly what this term means is becoming ever harder to pin down as both the practice and theory of cultural heritage become increasingly interdisciplinary. Archaeology, Architecture, and History of Art dominated definitions of heritage during the twentieth
century. It is only in the early twenty-first century that Design emerges as important to sustainable heritage management. And as heritage gains in global importance, especially for developing nations, this offers exciting opportunities for designers.

The talk ranges across theories proposing that all acts of heritage conservation are communicative acts; and urban theorists encouraging us to think about all urban phenomenon as a message; to urban design specialists who view communication as the fundamental function of cities and urban spaces. En route, we get a view of the richness that graphic heritage adds to our urban environments.

About our speaker

Robert Harland is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Design and Creative Arts at Loughborough University, where he is also Urbanism lead for the University’s Built Environment Beacon. For the past two decades his research has critically analysed the relationship between graphic form and urban context by exploring the way design facilitates the function of graphic objects as urban objects. Robert’s urban location-based research benefits from close collaboration with local actors, bringing to bear insider and outsider knowledge about distinct urban units of analysis. He is Principal Investigator on the AHRC–Newton Fund project ‘Repositioning Graphic Heritage’ in collaboration with Tongji University, Shanghai (for details see: Other recent projects include a three-year study into representations of Fascism in new town development in the Latina Province, Italy. Before entering academia, he spent 15 years working as a graphic designer in London, mostly through his practice Harland Design (1991–2001), and in 1999 he was a founding director of the environmental graphic design firm Placemarque, with Sue Manley and Mick Timpson. He holds a PhD in Architecture (Social Sciences) from the University of Nottingham and an undergraduate degree in Information Graphics from Trent Polytechnic, Nottingham.

Register for this event

This talk is free for SDS members. For non-members, the ticket cost is £10 per person. To join our Zoom talk, please get in touch with our administrator Kate at for the event link, ID, and password.

NEW! Not a member, unable to join us for the live-streamed event but would like to watch it at a time convenient to you? We now offer the option to watch the event recording on a time-limited basis for the cost of a £10 ticket. Please email Kate at for more information.

[Note: this event will be recorded and available to paid-up SDS members via our Talks Archive within a week of taking place.]


Online via Zoom


25 Mar 2021 18:00

Price : £10.00

Already a member? See details above for booking details.