Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Design


Maria Lonsdale

Lecturer in Graphic Design; MA Design Programme Leader

0113 343 3708

Room 1.33 | Link Building Clothworkers Central

Office hours: Wednesday and Friday (by appointment)

Licenciatura (Portugal), PhD (Reading, UK)

| Lecturer in Graphic and Communication Design [at Leeds 2015]

| Programme Leader for the MA Design [2015]

| Research Areas – Instructional Design, Information Design, Typographic Design, Graphic Design, User-Centred Design and Human-Centred Design

| Research Interests – design to instruct, design to inform, design for reading, design for healthcare, design for security, design for the user/people

| Research Methods – experimental studies, usability testing, co-design/participatory design, eye-tracking, visual surveys, interviews, questionnaires, focus groups



In 1996 Dr Maria Lonsdale received a 4-year degree (Licenciatura) in Visual Communication from ESAD Matosinhos – Portugal. In 2006 she received her PhD from the Department of Typography and Graphic Communication – University of Reading, UK.

Dr Lonsdale joined the School of Design in January 2015. She is a lecturer in Graphic and Communication Design and has experience of teaching design theory and practice in higher education, both in Portugal and in the UK since 1997.

Research Interests

Dr Maria Lonsdale’s research focuses on the effects of typographic and graphic design on user’s performance. Practice and research-based principles are used to inform her experimental work.

Her research is notable in the field of Design, as it involves experimental studies to test design solutions to particular problems encountered in 
real-life materials (further supported by qualitative methods).


Dr Lonsdale’s main areas of research are:

  • Instructional Design
  • Information Design
  • Typographic Design
  • Graphic Design
  • Human-Centred Design
  • User-Centred Design


Dr Lonsdale’s main research interests are:

  • Design to Instruct – the importance of design to help people process, learn and retain information, and transfer it to specific situations such as taking medicine, preparing for a medical exam, learning a subject, learning a second language, completing assignments and tests, paying utility bills, filling in a form, assembling or using a product, etc.
  • Design to Inform – the importance of design to make information easy to access and simple to use, such as healthcare and financial information, maps and transport routes, signage and wayfinding, data graphics, etc.
  • Design for Reading – the importance of typographic legibility for reading strategies such as search reading, skimming, and scanning.
  • Design for Healthcare – the importance of design to make health information clear and facilitate communication between health professionals and patients.
  • Design for security – the importance of design to inform and instruct the public about security issues such as cyber security awareness, hygiene and good practice.
  • Design for the user/people – the importance of designing with the user/people by employing methods such as co-design/participatory design, and for the user/people by employing methods such as usability testing, eye-tracking, performance testing.


Dr Lonsdale’s main research methods are:

  • Experimental studies
  • Eye-tracking
  • Usability testing
  • Co-design/participatory design
  • Visual surveys
  • Interviews
  • Focus group
  • Questionnaires



MA Design

Research Methods for Design

Information and Instructional Design

Design Principles and Applications

Design Thinking

Design Research and Integration

Design Prototyping and Evaluation

Design Dissertation


BA Graphic and Communication Design

Independent Study DissertationIndependent Study Dissertation (Year 3)


Programme Leader

MA Design – responsible for designing the new MA Design programme of study.


Module Leader

Research Methods for Design

Information and Instructional Design

Design Principles and Applications

Design Thinking

Design Research and Integration

Design Prototyping and Evaluation

Design Dissertation


Journal articles

  • Bigelow C, Dyson M, Lonsdale MDS, Larson K (2017) “What exactly is the difference between a text and a display typeface?”, Visible Language Zender M (eds.). 51.1: 134-142.
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/117849/

  • Lonsdale M (2016) “Typographic features of text and their contribution to the legibility of academic reading materials: an empirical study”, Visible Language. 50.1: 79-111.
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/99942/

    An experimental study provided evidence that text layout affects performance when reading text to search for specific information under time pressure in an examination-type situation. The present paper reports a second experimental study conducted to ascertain whether this effect extends to similar academic reading materials and situations that, contrary to examinations, are performed under no time pressure. Three layouts were used for comparison, which replicated real-life examination materials and represented three distinct levels of legibility. The results revealed that text layout affects performance under conditions of search reading even when time pressure is absent. Moreover, participants performed better with the layout conforming to legibility guidelines and considered this layout to be the easiest to use and the most attractive. In order to understand these findings, an attempt is made to specify a theoretical model of reading in academic-type situations. The model identifies and analyses the stages of the reading process that might be affected by typographic layout and adopts the hypothesis that such effect takes place at the perceptual level of reading. The outcomes from this study will prove useful to those involved in the development of written materials used in academia such as textbooks, journal articles, magazines, and tests.

  • Lonsdale M (2014) “Typographic features of text. Outcomes from research and practice”, Visible Language. 48.3: 29-67.
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/82895/

    This paper provides a comprehensive review of literature on the legibility of printed text in order to provide informed guidance on the design and preparation of typographic materials. To this end, experimental findings are taken into account, as well as the perspective of typographers, graphic designers, and authors. First, the typographic features of text are reviewed and illustrated individually to identify all the features that specifically characterise text layouts. It is emphasised, however, that the various typographic features should be selected in relation to each other, and that it is the combination and manipulation of all these typographic features as a group that makes the text legible. Studies are then reviewed and illustrated on the typographic structure of text as a whole. This information will prove useful to anyone involved in the development of typographic materials, including typographic and graphic designers, teachers and students.

  • Dos Santos Lonsdale M (2014) “The effect of text layout on performance: A comparison between types of questions that require different reading processes”, Information Design Journal. 21.3: 279-299.
    DOI: 10.1075/idj.21.3.09san, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/87545/

    © 2014 John Benjamins Publishing Company. Research has assessed whether the typographic layout of reading examinations affects performance. To complement this under-researched aspect of assessment, an experimental study sought to find out whether such an effect is limited to types of questions that require more location than comprehension processes; or whether it is also found with types of question that require comprehension processes to a greater extent. The results showed that participants read a text and answered questions on it faster with a text layout conforming to legibility guidelines. This is true for both types of questions, regardless of the reading processes required.

  • Lonsdale M (2007) “Does typographic design of examination materials affect performance?”, Information Design Journal. 15.2: 114-138.
    DOI: 10.1075/idj.15.2.04lon

    The present paper reports three experiments investigating the effect typographic design of examination materials has on performance. Significant differences in performance were always found in all three experiments. These differences were always in favour of text and/or question and answer sheet layouts conforming to legibility guidelines. Participants also considered the questions with these layouts easy to answer. The main conclusion was that text and question and answer sheet layouts displaying a combination of typographic features intended to improve legibility facilitate efficient search reading and answering of questions at the perceptual level of reading. The effect of typographic layout on performance should therefore be considered in order to construct valid and reliable examination materials.

  • Lonsdale MDS, Dyson MC, Reynolds L (2006) “Reading in examination-type situations: the effects of text layout on performance”, Journal of Research in Reading. 29.4: 433-453.
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9817.2006.00317.x, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/89222/

    Examinations are conventionally used to measure candidates' achievement in a limited time period. However, the influence of text layout on performance may compromise the construct validity of the examination. An experimental study looked at the effects of the text layout on the speed and accuracy of a reading task in an examination-type situation. A survey of the reading strategies used in examinations was conducted to help in defining the reading context in which text layout may have an effect. A set of guidelines was also derived from research on typographic features of text and these were used to select three text layouts (intended to be more or less legible) from the layouts used in English language reading examinations. Results of the experiment showed that task time was significantly shorter and the number of correct answers per second was significantly higher with the layout conforming to legibility guidelines. Participants' judgements indicated that this layout was also the easiest in which to find answers and the most attractive. The main conclusion of the study is that text layout affects performance in a task that involves reading text to search for specific information in order to answer questions on it under time pressure. Consequently, the construct validity of examinations may be compromised by confounding legibility with reading skills.

Conference papers

  • Dyson M, Lonsdale M, Papaefthimiou M (2006) Student perspectives on a Virtual Learning Environment: lessons for instructors. Proceedings of the First Annual Blended Learning Unit's Conference: Blended Learning – Promoting Dialogue in Innovation and Practice

Research Projects & Grants


2019   Information and instructional design principles to enhance accessibility and inclusivity of course material on Blackboard VLE | PI | LITE Teaching Excellence Project Leaders, University of Leeds.

2018   The impact of information design on the quality of bowel preparation for colonoscopy screening – Scoping study and initial design development | PI | School of Design, University of Leeds

2018   Visualising the terror threat | PI | School of Design, University of Leeds.

2017-18   Handling and communicating security risk information | PI | Government Communications and Planning Directorate (GCPD), UK

2017   The impact of information design on the quality of bowel preparation for colonoscopy screening – Public engagement | PI | Research Development Funding, University of Leeds

2017   Cyber security communication campaigns. Identify how information and instructional design can increase the quality of cyber hygiene amongst the public | PI | School of Design, University of Leeds.

2006   Staff and student use of Blackboard (Virtual Learning Environment) | Post-doc RA | University of Reading.

2005   The effects of a typographic layout variable (line length) on patterns of eye movements when reading from screen | Post-doc RA | University of Reading.

2002   FCT – Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia, Portugal, €90,000 | Sole author

Research Centres & Groups

Experience Design

Visual Communications Research Group

External Appointments


Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy | SFHEA

Member of the International Society of Typographic Designers | MISTD


Editorial responsibilities

Associate Editor and Reviewer for the international peer-reviewed journal Visible Language

Editor of the Special Student Issue for the journal Visible Language

Reviewer for the international peer-reviewed journal Information Design Journal

Reviewer for Bloomsbury Publishing

Reviewer for Routledge Taylor & Francis Group

Reviewer for Focal Press Routledge Taylor & Francis Group


External student education bodies

Academic member of the Peer Review College and Subject Cluster Committee for Media, Creative & Performing Arts for 2018 – WRoCAH, The White Rose College of the Arts & Humanities. One of 11 new Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) and seven Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) across the UK, supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)



Member of the Design Research Society

Member of the Information Design Association

PhD & Postdoctoral Supervision

Dr Lonsdale welcomes PhD students and proposals involving:

  • Typographic Design – including design for reading, editorial design, etc.
  • Information Design – including infographics, motion graphics, information visualisation, user/product information, healthcare/medical information, security information, information for the public, etc.
  • Instructional Design – including instructional materials for teaching and learning (learning in general or subject specific such as a second language), product/services instructions, questionnaires and forms, etc.
  • Human-Centred – including design for behaviour change, inclusive design, emotional design, accessible design, etc.
  • User-Centred Design – including public-centred design, patient-centred design, learner-centred design, etc.
  • Graphic Design in general


PhD Thesis

PhD | “Effects of the typographic layout of reading examination materials on performance” | Department of Typography & Graphic Communication, University of Reading, UK.



English language reading examinations are extremely important assessment tools that measure reading skills in a limited time, requiring reading strategies to work as quickly and accurately as possible. There do not appear, however, to be any studies that explicitly analyse the effects of the typographic layout of such examinations on performance. This study, therefore, focuses on whether the text layout and the question and answer sheet layout affect the speed and accuracy with which people perform reading tasks in an examination-type situation.

Several research methodologies were included in this research. Literature was reviewed to develop the theoretical basis for the experimental work. Surveys were conducted and questionnaires administered to reinforce the literature, help to choose the test material and discuss the experimental results. Alternative presentations of texts and question and answer sheets were investigated through experiments. These tested the effects of different combinations of typographic features on reading text and answering questions on it.

The results indicate that the use of text and question and answer sheet layouts conforming to legibility guidelines supports search reading and answering in examination-type situations. Participants also favoured these layouts. These findings were consistent, whether or not time pressure was imposed, and when testing different numbers and type of questions. Therefore, it is concluded that if the layout of the examination affects performance, then the validity and reliability of the examination may be compromised. That is, validity is compromised if the examination does not measure accurately the skill it is supposed to measure. Reliability is compromised if the examination does not measure performance consistently and different scores are obtained with different layouts.

As the texts used reflect more general academic reading requirements, this research may provide information relevant to the design of other educational materials, questionnaires, and reading material involving search reading.


Professional Practice

Dr Lonsdale started working as a graphic designer in 1996.




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