The Story Of British Road Signs
On Flashbak, the story of British road signs.
You might not know the name Margaret Calvert, but the British know her work. In 1964 Calvert and Jock Kinneir (1917-1974), her former tutor at Chelsea College of Art, finished creating the country’s road signs, like the one for Men At Work (above). (On 1 January 1965 the new road signage system became law)
Calvert says of the man digging: “Man having difficulty with a large umbrella… Of course, once you see that, it just looks like a large umbrella, but I don’t mind that.”
She told Frieze: “I now regret that I didn’t put a corner of a spade on the ‘men at work’ sign, it would have stopped all the jokes about a man struggling to put up an umbrella!”
Many of these pictograms…
“….were inspired by aspects of her own life. The cow featured in the triangular sign warning drivers to watch out for farm animals on the road was based on Patience, a cow on her relatives’ Warwickshire farm. Eager to make the school children crossing sign more accessible, she replaced the image of a boy in a school cap leading a little girl, with one of a girl – modelled on a photograph of herself as a child – with a younger boy.
Calvert described the old sign as being: “quite archaic, almost like an illustration from Enid Blyton… I wanted to make it more inclusive because comprehensives were starting up.”