John Rooney

John Rooney is a lecturer at the School of Art and Design at the University of Salford. Before this he ran a graphic design consultancy for the creative art sector, including a long-term consultancy role with the Tate Gallery in Liverpool. He recently completed a Masters at MMU and is currently studying for a PhD at Salford. The content of his PhD will create site specific digital artworks in the city.

In this podcast, designer and typographer John Rooney describes his latest work, in which he collaborates with acoustics researchers on exploring typography and creative gesture through sound. Rooney is currently undertaking a PhD – the content of the project will posit a question of how to visualise the creative gesture of a place. In 2010 John set up a new national typographic research initiative in conjunction with Birmingham City University, and coordinated the Salford University presentation of a typographic exhibition presented early 2012 in Media City.

Please see John's website for more on his work –

Questions & Answers

What were you doing before your doctorate?
"Before moving into teaching, I ran a successful graphic design consultancy based in Manchester, working with national and international clients in the creative arts sector, including a 14-year creative commission with Tate Gallery in Liverpool. In 1995 I was part of the Tate Liverpool consultancy team liaising with Brand specialists Wolff Olins on a new Tate Gallery identity. Vital, an exhibition catalogue I produced for the Tate in 1994, was also commended in the Frankfurt Book Fair of that year. Other industry recognition includes branding for Bury Art Gallery, which was featured in the European Logo Design Annual (EULDA): best of European Logo Design 2006."

What are you doing now?
"Teaching on BA Advertising Design at the University of Salford. This includes coordination of a Level 5 cohort, plus module delivery, summative and formative feedback across Level 4, 5, and 6. Level 5 is the point in the learning cycle where the cohort engages with industry practice. The briefs offered on each 20 credit module on Level 5 have live industry content. It is important to note here that the live experience contains content which is aligned with level grade descriptors and learning outcomes for the level from University documentation. In three years we have set live projects and created student placement opportunities with the following agencies/companies – MC Brand Studios/Los Angeles USA, Sonic ID/London, Umbro /UK, Greater Manchester Police, J Walter Thompson/Manchester, TBWA\Manchester, Red C Manchester/London, AKQA/London, and YoLo Manchester. In 2009, students exhibited work in Monaco as part of an international luxury packaging conference (LUXEpak08). In the same cohort, one student was shortlisted as one of the 10 best young creative students in the world at the Cannes Future Lions competition. The Cannes success led to the winning student gaining employment with AKQA, one of the worlds leading Advertising Agencies, before graduation.

"I have recently created a link with leading football/culture brand Umbro. The cohort have just completed their second successive live project which has received extensive publicity on the School and University website, and the influential Umbro blog. This semester I engaged with new modes of delivery to the cohort, via extensive use of Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), in the form of a subject specific web blog. Using supportive group learning, VLE environments have created an area where students and staff team offer support and feedback to the cohort. It is known as The Advertising Project – an online environment where the cohort and staff post images, scamps, films and digital media of relevance to their work and the creative process in general. The impact of this VLE has been significant on learning outcomes. The site went online on 15 March 2011, with the full cohort signed up as contributors. To date, the site has had 165 posts with 4000 visits. This learning strategy has had an immediate impact on grades. Data taken from the grading of the 'Creative Team' (the previous 20 credit module) showed the cohort achieved a combined A+B grade of 84.0%. With the benefit of additional VLE feedback, grading from the recently completed 'Copywriting and Art Direction' shows a combined A+B grade of 96.4%, an improvement of 12.4%. The validation of this improvement is supported via feedback form the cohort that makes specific reference to the use of the VLE as a critical tool in a complete creative learning pedagogy. MEQ feedback clearly evidences the blog as a key point of feedback and an invaluable tool of student progression."

What impact has your doctorate had on what you are doing now?
"My PhD study is a valuable framework for my ongoing research strategy. The developing methodology of study has created a research project which has informed my teaching strategies, created new research links, and included practice-based content which works with colleagues across the University."

What was the route between your doctorate and what you are doing now?
"In addition to my graphic design consultancy, I expanded my research profile with conference presentations, written papers and collaborative art installations. This additional output underpinned my personal teaching philosophy of the importance of enhancing student employability via staff continuing to develop industry engagement. I completed an MA in Design and Art Direction at Manchester Metropolitan University in 2009. This experience was vital in developing a non-commercial set of personal design responses informed by personal statements, which in turn has lead to a connective methodology for my PhD studies."