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MA Communication Design combines the development of practical skills with the study of historical and theoretical issues, in a world-class research-intensive environment.

This course integrates shared elements of study and pathway-specific elements. This Book Design pathway allows for specialisation and a deeper engagement with Communication Design. 

The Book Design pathway combines practical design for printed books and digital publishing platforms with related theory and history of typographic design and visual culture. A lively studio environment is fostered through assignments for clients, practical projects set by practising designers, and through access to traditional and digital printing facilities.

In the practice of book design, you will develop your work through briefed and self-directed projects that engage with emerging experimental publishing strategies as well as the current demands of professional practice. You will develop both your design skills and your ability to write reports and evaluate designs in relation to audience/user needs and production practicalities.

A research-based approach

As well as working with our own extensive special collections, we make visits to archives and libraries in Oxford and elsewhere, ensuring a truly hands-on experience of book history. Through our collaboration with the London Centre for Book Arts, we also have excellent venues for London-based activities.

You will develop your knowledge and analytical skills through lectures, seminars, and directed reading. Supported by workshops on research-based writing, your dissertation will allow you to focus on a specific aspect of historical or contemporary book design, through consideration of both practice and critical discourse.

The pathway is led by Ruth Blacksell with contributions from Rick Poynor. Visiting academics, researchers and award-winning professional designers ensure that you are challenged by a wide range of genres and approaches. Whenever possible, you can join students on our other MA pathways for taught elements, enhancement activities and to hear visiting speakers.

What will you study?

Students on the Book Design pathway work on three modules. The first involves a series of seminars that cover key areas in typography and book design, and build a foundation in critical reading and research methods. These seminars are shared with other master’s students, and include reading and discussion of key texts, and preparation of a presentation to peers.

The practical module for the Book Design pathway focuses on design for printed books and digital publishing platforms with cross-reference to related theories and histories of typographic design and visual culture. A lively studio environment is fostered through assignments for clients, practical projects set by practising designers, and through access to traditional and digital printing facilities.

The third module comprises preparation and work for a substantial dissertation, on an area that may be connected to the work in the other modules of the programme.

What career can you have?

We have an excellent employment record. Graduates take up positions with established book publishers and studios specialising in publication design. Many develop their own businesses and practices and some go on to PhD research and academic careers. Employers include the British Library, the Folio Society, John Morgan Studio, Oxford University Press, Dorling Kindersley, and Taschen.


Visit the Communication Design: Book Design MA page on the University of Reading website for more details!

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