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Dr Rob Waller


  • Rob Waller
  • Area

    The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design


    Visiting Research Fellow

  • Rob Waller is an information designer and director of the Simplification Centre - a not-for-profit organisation that promotes the clear communication of complex information. Rob's career has combined academic research at the Open University and the University of Reading, and design practice with his own agency Information Design Unit, and later with the global branding agency Enterprise IG. Rob has been associated with the creation of an institutional framework for the development of information design, founding Information Design Journal in 1979, and co-founding the Information Design Association in 1992. He has also co-organised a series of Information Design Conferences from 1982 to the present day. Rob is a frequent conference speaker, and has published many papers on the theory and practice of information design.

  • Biography

  • After training as a typographer, Rob started his career as a researcher with the Open University in the 70s and 80s, working in a multidisciplinary environment that obliged him to argue for the role of information design in terms familiar to educational, language and media researchers. He founded the multidisciplinary Information Design Journal in 1979, and ran a series of related conferences.

    After completing a doctorate on typography and discourse at the University of Reading in 1987, Rob started the consultancy Information Design Unit. Together with business partner David Lewis, he grew this into the UK's largest information design agency, selling to WPP in 2001, and subsequently leading the merged information design team as part of Enterprise IG, the global branding agency.

    Rob has worked with numerous well-known service brands in the UK and Europe, including AXA, Barclays, Vodafone, Unilever, British Gas, T-Mobile, BT, Norwich Union, Tele Danmark, Telenor, Sanitas, BBVA and Eircom. He has also worked extensively on clear communications for the public sector and government.

    Rob is particularly concerned with ways to make reading easier for people with poor functional literacy, and with the needs of organisations who have to make very complex information accessible to a wide audience. The Simplification Centre faces both of these audiences: consulting and co-creating with users, and articulating information design skills for organisations, and making them available through training.

    Rob's research interests centre around the role of typography and layout in language: enabling writers to extend their means of expression from purely linear to graphically structured language; and supporting readers who engage with text in an active and purposeful way.

    His earlier academic work developed a genre theory of typographic design, and he has lately been reinterpreting this using the pattern language approach developed by the architect Christopher Alexander. The goal is to articulate what skilled designers do, in order to make their strategies more accessible to anyone who needs to make information clear.

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  • External collaborations

  • Member

    • Editorial Advisory Board, Information Design Journal (1979 to date)
    • International Advisory Board, MSc Traffic & Transport Design, International Institute for Information Design (2011)
    • Panel of judges, ClearMark awards, USA (2011).
    • Panel of judges, IIID Awards (2011)


    •  Information Design Conference, London, April 2012
    • Information Design Association (2007 to date)

    Director: The Simplification Centre, London

    Track Director: Communication management track for ISG*ISARC2012 conference 'Who is afraid of aging?', Eindhoven, June 2012

    External Examiner: PhDs at Peninsular School of Medicine, Nottingham Trent University, Coventry University

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  • Publications, exhibitions and other outcomes

  • Peer-reviewed journals
    Waller R. (2012) 'Graphic literacies for a digital age: the survival of layout', The Information Society, vol 28 no 4, pp.236-252. 

    Waller, R., Delin, J. and Thomas, M. (2012) 'Towards a pattern language approach to document description'. Discours 10 (online journal)

    Waller R. (2007) 'Comparing typefaces for airport signs', Information Design Journal 15(1), pp.1-15

    Waller R. & Delin J. (2003) 'Cooperative brands: the importance of customer information for service brands', Design Management Journal, 2003, 14(4), pp.63-69

    Book chapters and articles
    Waller, R. (2012, in press) 'Transformational information design', in the proceedings of the public lecture series, On Information Design 2009/2010, Architecture Museum of Ljubljana

    Waller, R. (2011) 'Places need signs: information design, architecture and making buildings readable', Eye, 80

    Waller, R. & Waller, J. (2011). Transformar las cartas del gobierno: el diseño y la redacción trabajando juntos. In Frascara, J. (ed.) ¿Qué es el diseño de información?Buenos Aires: Ediciones Infinito

    Waller, R. (2008) 'Simplification: what is gained and what is lost' In T. Porathe (ed). Applications of Information Design 2008. Eskilstuna: Mälardalen University Press, 219-230. Reprinted 2011 as Technical paper 1, Simplification Centre, University of Reading

    Delin, J., Searle-Jones, A., & Waller, R. (2006) 'Branding and relationship communications: the evolution of utility bills in the UK' in S. Carliner, J.P. Verckens and C. de Waele (eds) Information and Document Design, Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp.27-59

    Technical papers (available here at the Simplification Centre)

    Waller R. Type size: interpreting the Clear Print standard. Technical paper 10, The Simplification Centre

    Waller, R. (2011) What makes a good document: the criteria we use. Technical paper 2, Simplification Centre, University of Reading

    Thomas, M. Delin, J. & Waller R. (2011) A corpus for graphic analysis of texts. Technical paper 3, Simplification Centre, University of Reading

    Waller, R. (2011) Choosing a typeface for reading. Technical paper 9, Simplification Centre, University of Reading

    Waller, R. (2011) Improved letters about benefits: a case study. Technical paper 11, Simplification Centre, University of Reading

    Waller, R, (1995/2011) 'Information design: how the disciplines work together' presented at Vision Plus conference, Austria. Republished in 2011 as Simplification Centre Technical paper 14

    Keynote presentations

    Waller, R. (2012) 'Typographic visualisation to simplify complex information', keynote presentation at Visualizing Knowledge, Helsinki, Finland, 17 September

    Waller, R (2012) 'Information design to make reading easier', keynote presentation at 13th International Conference on Computers Helping People with Special Needs, Linz, Austria, 11-13 July

    Waller, R. (2011) 'Transformational information design', keynote presentation at Information Design 2011, Lahti, Finland, 20 May

    Waller, R. (2011) 'Reflections on information design', invited presentation at Design of Understanding conference, St Brides Institute, London, 28 January

    Waller, R. (2010) 'Are we communicating clearly yet?' invited presentation to Financial Services Forum conference Are we Treating Customers Fairly yet?, London, 24 June

    Waller, R. (2010) 'The graphic dimension of text', invited presentation at COST/European Science Foundation International Workshop on Electronic Textuality, Istanbul, 16 June

    Waller, R. (2010) 'Graphic literacies for a networked society: the survival of layout' invited presentation at COST Exploratory Workshop Knowledge Management in Contemporary Europe, Brussels, 1 June

    Waller, R. (2010) 'What do we mean by graphic literacy?', AHRC Information Design Research Network symposium Defining and measuring graphic literacy, Reading, 24 March

    Waller, R. & Delin J. (2010) 'Towards a pattern language approach to document description', Multidisciplinary Approaches to Discourse, Moissac, France, 18 March

    Waller, R. (2010) 'Transformational information design'. Invited presentation for the Architecture Museum of Ljubljana lecture series On Information Design, 23 February

    Waller, R. (2009) 'The Reading MA in Information Design: teaching wayfinding', Sign 09, Vienna, 10 December

    Waller, R. (2009) 'Beyond plain English: why do they find it so hard to speak to us'. University of Reading Public Lecture series, 8 December

    Waller, R. (2009) 'Pattern languages for information design', Information Design Conference, London, 2 April

    Waller, R. (2008) 'Simplifying information', Building Societies Association seminar Treating Customers Fairly, Nottingham, 20 November

    Waller, R. (2008) 'Simplification: what is gained and what is lost', Applications of Information Design, Mälardalen, Sweden, 26 June

    Waller, R. (2007) 'Helping people cope with complexity', Information Design Conference, London, 29 March

    Waller, R. (2005) 'The small print: what's the big deal?', IIID conference on financial communications, Blurring boundaries: focused solutions, Boston, 27 April

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