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Rob Tovey


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Personal profile

Vision Statement


My research investigates how we keep pace with the explosion of data that infiltrates the imagery, and particularly the photography, we see every day. My focus is on what we can do with these data-rich visuals that is meaningful and useful. I examine how imagery works as part of information systems and where its utility lies. I look at how photographic imagery can become a map, how the infographic works within healthcare systems, how the photo-composite can become a data visualisation. This mode of data-driven image is often overlooked, partly because they are digitally-enabled and new, but also because they fall between traditional disciplinary fields.

For example, open Google Maps and, with a couple of clicks, you can see a map made of hundreds of photographs. There is no word for this style of image, but it has been viewed by millions. It is not a map or a photograph. I call them photomaps. I have recently published a visual taxonomy with the Visual Communication Journal on them. Unusual practice like this fascinates me. I seek to find real-world applications where data, digital innovation and imagery co-exist, at the margins of established disciplinary boundaries, but where impact can be made.

I am involved in a number of projects of that explore these themes. These include: An investigation of how clearer visual communication might help improve pregnancy outcomes for non-English speakers; analysis of the role of digital photography in bereavement care after the loss of a baby; a practical outline of photographic mapping methodologies; and the development of the graphics for a user interface for an innovative ‘open’ flight deck. Several of these projects are funded and are practice-driven.

Practice-as-research (PaR) methodologies saturate most of my research activity. My background is as a designer, a creator, and whilst I have a number of traditional scholarly outputs, practice-as-research is an area I am actively pursuing. Most of my PhD students are engaged in practice-led studies, and I am producing visual-essays for journals wherever and whenever I can.

In terms of traditional outputs, my research has been published in various areas including chapters in 10 Must Reads: Contemporary Photography (2016), Post-Screen: Intermittence and Interference (2016), The Edge of Our Thinking (2012) and The Reflexive Photographer (2015). I am currently co-editing the collected volume Body, Space, Object: Dialogues between Art and Dance, for Palgrave Macmillan which includes a chapter on Chloe Dewe-Mathews Shot at Dawn series, and I have the article, ‘A Visual Taxonomy of Photomaps,’ due to be published with the Visual Communication Journal early in 2018.


Dr Rob Tovey is an early career researcher and a Senior Lecturer in Graphic Design – principally working across information design, photography, brand experience and editorial design. He holds a BA (Hons) in Visual Communication, an MA in Graphic Design and a PhD investigating photo-composites in the context of information design, mapping and the digital image. His research interests include experimental graphic visualisations and communication design within the context of health and well-being. His research has been published in The Edge of Our Thinking (Royal College of Art Publishing) and The Reflexive Photographer (Museums Etc), he has given papers at numerous conferences, and is involved in several research projects. Commercially, Rob has worked for a range of design studios in London and the Midlands including ‘I Am’ Associates, Parenthesis Design and The Natural History Museum (in-house design team), not to mention running his own studio, show+tell. His clients have included Universal Music, Paul McCartney, The British Heart Foundation, Nickelodeon, BP and the BBC, producing digital campaigns, motion graphics and branding design. He has won and been shortlisted for numerous awards including The Searle Prize, Fresh Awards, DandAD, Digital Innovation Awards and the George Jackson Prize.

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Research Output 2016 2018

Photomaps: A Visual Taxonomy

Tovey, R. 23 Jan 2018 In : Visual Communication. 17, 2, p. 209-220 12 p.

Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

Open Access
search engine

Fractured Images: The Reflexive Affects of Misalignment

Tovey, R. 7 Nov 2016 10 Must Reads: Contemporary Photography. Edinburgh: Museums Etc, (10 Must Reads)

Research output: Research - peer-reviewChapter

God's Eye View: The Satellite Photography of Google

Tovey, R. 3 Nov 2016 Post-Screen: Intermittence + Interference. Moutinho, A., Vicente, A., Ferreira, H., Pinto, J. & Primo, J. (eds.). Lisbon, Portugal: Edicoes Universitarias Lusofonas, p. 96-106 11 p.

Research output: Research - peer-reviewChapter

Activities 2011 2016

  • 6 Participation in conference

body ^ space ^ object ^ memory ^ identity Symposium

Tovey, R. (Organising Committee)
20 May 2016

Activity: Participation in conference

Early Modern Paratexts

Tovey, R. (Speaker)
26 Jul 2013

Activity: Participation in conference

Cultures of the Digital Economy Annual Conference

Tovey, R. (Organiser)
27 Mar 201228 Mar 2012

Activity: Participation in conference

Still Architecture: Photography, Vision and Cultural Transmission, CRASSH

Tovey, R. (Speaker)
3 May 20125 May 2012

Activity: Participation in conference