For our first session of this fall semester, we welcome Irmi Wachendorff to present her ongoing PhD research on the relationship of linguistics and typography.

Irmi Wachendorff holds a MA in Art & Design Sciences (FUdK), a Diploma in Graphic Design (HfGO) and a MAS in Typography & Type Design (ZHdK). Irmi is currently a research assistant at the Folkwang University of the Arts, Essen, and will be a lecturer in Graphic Design Theory and Typography at the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication at the University of Reading, UK, as off January 2018.

Globalization creates an increasingly multilingual world, where people from different languages come together in shared urban environments. Along with them multilingual texts and representations of visual cultures coexist in metropolitan areas in hybrid forms between global and local forces.

My ongoing PhD research focuses on the contribution of multilingual and multi-scriptural typography to the construction and perception of cultural identity and social positioning through texts in public spaces. Questions on cultural stereotyping through letter forms are raised. In theoretical and empirical analyses the so far under explored area between linguistics and typography is investigated. On the basis of different linguistic concepts it is considered how typographic variation generates meaning and how lettering in the urban environment (by professionals and laymen alike) can be regarded as a communicative act and significant stakeholder in the construction of social space.

This typographic research is part of the philological research project “Signs of metropolises – Visual multilingualism in the Ruhr area” at the University of Duisburg-Essen, that brings together researchers from linguistics, urbanistics, integration sciences and design studies.

In a multi-method approach quantitative and qualitative empirical research methods are applied. A corpus of 25’500 tagged and geo-referenced photos of vernacular typography as well as data from interviews with sign producers form part of my research.

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