Dr Catherine Dixon

Profile image of Stage Leader BA (Hons) Graphic Design and Senior Lecturer in Typography

Stage Leader BA (Hons) Graphic Design and Senior Lecturer in Typography

Central Saint Martins

Biography

Catherine Dixon is a designer, writer and teacher. As a designer she works mostly with text-based projects, including typographic covers for the award-winning ‘Great Ideas’ series for Penguin Books. As a writer she has a particular interest in type design and letterform, and her doctoral thesis, ‘A description framework for typeforms; an applied study’, focused on the problems of describing typefaces and went on to inform the CSM ‘Typeform dialogues’ project.

Catherine writes regularly on letterforms in environmental contexts, contributing to the website www.publiclettering.org.uk, and co-authored the book Signs: lettering in the environment with CSM Professor of Typography Phil Baines. She contributes to online design blogs and magazines including Eye, Random Spectacular, Matrix and Imprint on general typographic and education issues. She is a frequent speaker at international conferences, most recently presenting at TypoBerlin (2016), London Transport Museum (2016), Tipoteca Italiana (2015), and ATypI in São Paulo (2015), as well as organising design-related events, mostly in support of St Bride Library, London. Catherine has taught typography at Central Saint Martins since 1999, and in Spring 2011 took up a one-year post as a Visiting Professor at the University of São Paulo, Brazil. With Phil Baines she co-curates the Central Lettering Record, part of the college’s Museum & Contemporary Collections. 

Research interests

Typeface classification; typeface design: history and practice; letterform; public lettering; letterpress; education; typography; graphic representation of information; practice-based research in design.

Research statement

The pragmatic concern with typeface description, which informed my doctoral research, now underpins the transformation of the more conceptual outcomes of my PhD into practical tools for helping students, especially to make sense of the formal diversity of typefaces currently available. Using analytical frameworks developed within information design I am looking at the use of graphic representation in the communication of classificatory strategy. Here research and teaching interests fuse through an engagement with the consideration of those not only making, but using and being shaped by typeface classifications.

Following publication of our co-authored book, my work with Phil Baines continues towards a critical documentation of public lettering, addressing the paucity of qualitative tools to critically evaluate the contribution public lettering makes to our sense of place.

More recent research has explored letterpress and articulations around its value as a teaching and learning tool, as well as the value of an emergent letterpress vernacular. This has since broadened into a consideration of the value of typographic workmanship within contemporary graphic communication design contexts. 

Students

Julie Chauffier, "Expressivity of letter shapes On the correlation between fonts and subjective perceptions."

Mike Harkins, Contemporary processes of text typeface design.

Isabella Ribeiro Aragão, Fundição de tipos no Brasil: estudos comparativos entre a Funtimod e a fundadoras européias [PhD sandwich student from University of Saõ Paulo, Brazil].

Annegrete Mølhave, The information design of ecological cycle network diagrams in science textbooks.

Project awards, and grants

2014–7: (with Dr Priscila Farias) External member of research team for CNPq-funded project ‘‘Memoria Gráfica Paulistana: desenvolvimento de base de dados sobre os primórdios da impressão com tipis móveis na cidade de São Paulo’ [São Paulo City graphic memory: development of a database on the origins of letterpress printing in São Paulo’].

2011–12: (with Dr Priscila Farias) Visiting Professorship award from FABESP (BR), located within the Faculdade de Arquitetura e Urbanismo (FAU), Universidade de São Paulo (USP), Brazil. 

Selected research outputs

  • Nicolete Gray, A story in letters

    Dixon, Catherine (2016) Nicolete Gray, A story in letters. In: Words on Buildings: Lettering and the Environment in the Twentieth Century - a series of 6 lectures for The Twentieth Century Society, Autumn 2016, Twentieth Century Society HQ, 70 Cowcross Street, Clerkenwell, London.

  • The platypus in the system: an approach to describing typefaces

    Dixon, Catherine (2016) ‘The platypus in the system: an approach to describing typefaces’. In: Berlin Type School Away-Days, 29–30 July 2016, Berlin.

  • Underground lettering before 1933

    Baines, Phil and Dixon, Catherine (2016) Underground lettering before 1933. In: The Edward Johnston Talk Series: London’s First Fonts, 10 May 2016, London Transport Museum, Covent Garden, London, UK.

  • Mas tudo bem! In search of typographic optimism

    Dixon, Catherine (2015) Mas tudo bem! In search of typographic optimism. In: ATypI 2015 São Paulo, 14–17 October 2015, Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado (FAAP), São Paulo, Brazil.

  • Back to the classroom: the Central Saint Martins Museum & Study Collection and Central Lettering Record (CLR)

    Baines, Phil and Dixon, Catherine (2015) Back to the classroom: the Central Saint Martins Museum & Study Collection and Central Lettering Record (CLR). In: Association of European Printing Museums conference: ‘The relevance of typographical collections for today’s designers’, 2–3 October 2015, Tipoteca Italiana, Cornuda, Italy.

  • Classification legacies: past perspectives and their shaping of current practice views

    Dixon, Catherine (2014) Classification legacies: past perspectives and their shaping of current practice views. In: Design frontiers: territories, concepts, technologies. Editorial Designio, Mexico City, pp. 53-68. ISBN 9789685852456

  • ‘Changing perspectives’

    Dixon, Catherine and Baines, Phil (2014) ‘Changing perspectives’. In: Collaborative Letterpress Project 6x6. University of Brighton, Brighton, pp. 57-74. ISBN 9781905593989

  • To touch: beyond nostalgia

    Dixon, Catherine (2013) ‘To touch: beyond nostalgia’. In: touch : the vista sans wood type project book. Pointed Press Studio & Design is good for you, Swarthmore (PA), United States of America, pp. 65-71. ISBN 978-0-615-79646-8

  • Understanding the bigger picture: the graphic representation of overviews of typeform

    Dixon, Catherine (2013) Understanding the bigger picture: the graphic representation of overviews of typeform. In: Selected Readings of the 5th Information Design International Conference: research and practice. Sociedade Brasileira de Design da Informação, Brazil, pp. 74-91.

  • Classification legacies: past perspectives and their shaping of current practice views

    Dixon, Catherine (2012) Classification legacies: past perspectives and their shaping of current practice views. In: Design frontiers: territories, concepts, technologies. ICDHS 2012 - 8th Conference of the International Committee for Design History & Design Studies. Blucher, Sao Paulo, pp. 82-88. ISBN 978-85-212-0692-7