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JOCK KINNEIR AND MARGARET CALVERT

V.Ryan © 2018

 
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Margaret Calvert is best known for her work with her colleague Jock Kinneir (1957 to 1967). They designed many of the road signs that we see today, in a style that has been used widely around the world. Before the ground breaking work of Kinneir and Calvert, road signs followed a variety of styles and were not standardised, often making it perplexing for drivers.
 
 
 

With the advent of the new motorways, and the increasing number of drivers, there was a growing need for a universal signage system across the UK network. The existing system was not fit for purpose, as signage styles differed according to the region / county, a variety of writing styles were used, often difficult to read when driving even at a moderate speed.

The Government gave the task to Kinneir and his assistant Calvert, both graphic designers. Calvert had previously worked with Kinneir, designing the signage for Gatwick Airport, which had proved very successful.

Kinneir and Calvert decided on the use of standard colours and typography, and a simplistic understandable style, which would be easy to understand, at a glance. A style that would not require careful consideration by the driver. It was also recognised that a standardised system would help to keep the roads safe.

They set about their ‘brief’ as Graphic Designers, designing infographics, in the form of simple maps. After research and development, a new font called ‘Transport’, was developed for all text, with both uppercase and lowercase letters being used. A colour scheme of reflective white lettering, against a non-reflective blue background was adopted. The signs were used in 1958, along the first motorway in the UK, the M6.
Since the introduction of the standardised signage, Kinneir’s and Calvert’s innovative style has been used around the world.

 
 
 
 

By the early 1960s, Kinneir Calvert Associates (with Margaret Calvert an equal partner), were awarded the commission, to design the signage for all other roads. Calvert was responsible for designing most of the symbols / pictograms. She saw this as an opportunity to update the signage, to be more inclusive and representative of present day society. An extensive set of signage was produced, most of which are still used to this day. Although Calvert claims that ‘style’ was never a consideration for the designs, they became a recognised graphical form/style, from the 1960s onwards.

The road signs were so effective, that they are also in use in many other countries. A testament to the quality of the work of Kinneir and Calvert, is that, every driver recognises the signs and is tested on them, during the Driving Test. Also, the designs have become part of our cultural composition, recognised around the world. Their designs have also been shown, as exhibits at the London Design Museum. However, there is no need to visit an art gallery or design museum, to see their work. Just jump in a car, or take a ride on the bus and you will see their work at almost every turn.

 
 
 
 
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