Graphic Events

DR. James Dyer, Senior Lecturer, and lead of the undergraduate course Graphic Design and Animation gave an account of his latest book ‘Graphic Events: A Realist Account of Graphic Design’ at the beginning of the lecture he asked the class to think of ‘One Comment, one question and one disagreement’ for a Q&A at the end. James explained that he wanted to research and write about the unusual day-to-day life of a graphic designer. Most of the book is based on signs that appear around us and are discarded over time. Click here to view the book online, the intro online explains that “Once the design leaves the designer’s computer, it enters an unpredictable and precarious existence in the world”. 

On the back of the book James explained who the list of contributors to the book is:

  • Prof. Alex Coles leads the MA transdisciplinary courses at the School of Arts and Humanities at Huddersfield University. Alex has written several books.
  • Joanna Drucker wrote a book called Graphic Design History: A Critical Guide is a visual theorist and cultural critic.
  • Fraser Muggeridge is a graphic designer who specialises in typography
  • DR. ME Graphic Artists, Ryan Doyle and Mark Edwards from Manchester have appeared in Design Week click here to view, about design collages and has a large following on Instagram.
  • Patrick Thomas from Berlin Street Graphics also has a large following on Instagram @berlinstreetgraphics shows an example of fragments of the type found on the streets of Berlin.
  • Prof. Teal Triggs who teaches Graphic Design history at the Royal College of Arts and has written books herself, James referenced one on Fanzines.
  • James Williams a Professor of Philosophy who has studied the process philosophy of signs and semiotics, click here to see more about him.

Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation.

James spoke a bit about Margaret Calvert someone who I had read about years ago and who is referenced in my book called ‘The Visual History of Type, by Paul McNeil’ shown below is a photograph of the spread that features Margaret Calvert.

The book says ‘up until the 1950s there was a chaotic array of road signs in the UK, so British designers Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert were employed to design a new signage system in 1957, they created a typeface using upper and lower case and based it on Akzidenz-Grotesk for legibility.’ (McNeil, P, 2017, p. 354-355)

James said her work had been exhibited at the Design Museum in London and is seen here: this site talks about how her work is ‘seen everywhere, without realising it’ which is what the book ‘Graphic Events’ is based on.

James also spoke about the Berlin signage system and we were shown a YouTube clip: called ‘Berlin, Safari Typographie’ before watching this he asked us if anyone could speak German, but no one responded. However, my partner can speak German so I went home, let him see the clip and asked him to tell me what the presenter was saying. The presenter starts by showing the book ‘ Paul Renner, Typographie’ the book is using Futura and was printed on a Gutenberg printing press 500 years ago, he points to a sign at the tube station on the wall and says that in 1936 the Nazis changed the geometric type to make it look more soldier like with straight lines, he says the American’s love the sign because it is easily recognised and they know they are in Berlin. 

The presenter references the art nouveau in Paris on the similar types of typeface use and says the transport system typefaces are political and shows some examples. Then he shows the use of 3 systems at the se croisent isi, the Nazis created a socialist frieze (art on the wall) and 50 years later the Republic do a cheap sign in Arial by Microsoft he says is a terrible representation. The presenter says he sees signs all over Berlin that are not aesthetic. The transport system went from beige and orange to everything in yellow and black using the typeface Frutiger.

James moved on to referencing another book he had read called The Sciences of the Artificial, by Herbert A Simon which challenges conventional thinking, there were quite a few books James recommended to read. This book is not available to read in the university library.

Our task for this week is to take 3 books out of the library but I got 4, here’s my list:
  1. Caps lock: how capitalism took hold of graphic design, and how to escape it Pater, Ruben (745.4 PAT, Floor 3)
  2. Design is Storytelling  / Ellen Lupton (745.4 LUP, Floor 3)
  3. Designing brand identity: an essential guide for the whole branding team by Alina Wheeler, (658.827 BRO, Floor 3)
  4. Brands and Branding, Stephen Brown ( 658.827024 SLA, Floor 3)

At the start of the lecture we were asked to think of questions for James, I asked:

Q. Did you design the book cover yourself?

A. Yes, I did. It was a labour of love we couldn’t afford to have someone else do it.

Q. How did you approach the people you collaborated with in your book?

A. By Instagram and email.

James did elaborate on the answers by saying the first person he contacted was Prof James Williams and he was amazed when he responded and wanted to meet up and discuss his project further. James Williams was the first person he collaborated with, they met in Edinburgh and he had prepared himself by writing some questions down he wanted to learn about. Because of this, he said the conversation naturally flowed and that built his confidence to collaborate with the next person.

Someone in class asked:

Q. How do you know where to start when writing a book?

A. I read books and I watch this YouTube video from Nick Papadimitriou reading SCARP  

A few other references James spoke about is Robert Brownjohn, philosopher Vilém Flusser, Design Academy, Lucas Maassen, Dutch Design Week, Set Margins, Valiz, Speculative Everything, Ed Fella’s, Letters on America Project.

In writing Graphic Events James Dyer wanted to cover an unchallenged discourse of Graphic Design.

Writing a book on your specialism is another platform to promote your work.


Berlin, Safari Typographie,

Design Academy,


Dyer, J., & Deakin, N. (2022). Graphic Events: A Realist Account of Graphic Design. Onomatopee.

Dutch Design Week,

Graphic Events: A Realist Account of Graphic Design,

James Williams,

Lucas Maassen,

McNeil, P. (2017). The Visual History of Type. Laurence King.

Nick Papadimitriou reading SCARP 

Robert Brownjohn,

Speculative Everything,



Vilém Flusser,

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