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Rathna Ramanathan

Head of Central Saint Martins and Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of the Arts
Central Saint Martins
Person Type
Staff Executive Board
Rathna  Ramanathan


I am Head of Central Saint Martins and Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of the Arts. Previously I was Dean of Academic Strategy at Central Saint Martins, and before that Dean of School of Communication at the Royal College of Art.

Originally from Chennai, India, I work in communication design, particularly within a South Asian context. My practice is fuelled by a love for, and lifelong interest in typography and languages, and a belief that communication is a fundamental human right.

As a graphic designer and typographer, I am best known for my work with Tara Books, an independent collective of writers, designers and book designers who favour a non-hierarchical mode of functioning informed by feminism and other movements for social justice. With Tara Books, I have co-authored and published multiple books, many of which have won international design awards. The most prominent, In the Land of Punctuation, has been translated into multiple languages, featured in multiple exhibitions, and inspired a performance in South Korea. I lead the book design and bilingual typesetting on the Murty Classical Library of India, a 100-year, critical, postcolonial, and premodern literary publishing project.

Through my design practice, I have worked in partnership with organisations such as BBC World, World Bank, UNICEF, amongst others to make visible marginalised peoples and voices from across the world. I consult and advise on the design of Indic typefaces and in this area have worked with Adobe, Dalton Maag, Monotype, and others. I am on the Board of the Association Typographique Internationale.

My key research areas are intercultural graphic communication and alternative publishing practices in the Global South. This ‘critical position’ of situating between two cultural contexts is fundamental to my practice. I have co-led two British Council funded projects for which I was Principal Investigator: Crafting Futures in Central Asia and Going Global Partnership with the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. As some examples of my writing: My PhD on English Little Presses focused on how émigré and marginalised practices found voice through design and publishing. For the forthcoming Routledge Companion to Design Research, 2nd edition, I explore publishing as a platform that brings intercultural communication, decoloniality and graphic design and typography into productive dialogue through engaged (in social and political issues; in dialogical, creative, and critical practice) and situated (local communities; international networks of editors, translators, designers, illustrators, publishers, and readers) design research frameworks and practices.

I enjoy teaching and supervise postgraduate research students whose research areas link to my own.


Rathna Ramanathan – research profile