50 years of British road signs

In 1965 one of the most ambitious and effective information design projects was launched in Britain. The British road sign appeared on our streets for the very first time 50 years ago and has occupied an important role in our lives ever since, from instructing us where to go and a safe speed to travel at, to making us aware of any hazards or road works. The signs designed by Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert standardised the road network, creating many of the signs we see today and produced two new typefaces: Transport and Motorway.

Transport on a dye-line information sheet, 1967. Jock Kinneir, Margaret Calvert. Kinneir Calvert Associates.
Transport on a dye-line information sheet, 1967. Jock Kinneir, Margaret Calvert. Kinneir Calvert Associates.
Children Crossing. Jock Kinneir, Margaret Calvert. Kinneir Calvert Associates. 1965.
Children Crossing. Jock Kinneir, Margaret Calvert. Kinneir Calvert Associates. 1965.

Installation at the Design Museum

The Design Museum is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the British road signage system with a free installation of signs, illustrations and archive material.

Made North have invited 50 leading artists and designers to transform the familiar circle, triangle and square signs. The project joins the north and south of England with a display of work and talk already taking place during Sheffield Design Week at the MADE NORTH Gallery.

The Design Museum will be the main hub for the project whilst a number of signs will be displayed at other venues across London. The Design Museum tank will house a display which tells the story of how these everyday objects came to fruition. The project is curated by Patrick Murphy, Director of MADE NORTH.

Take a moment to check out the anniversary website to discover more about the designers and the project, such as how they tested legibility at Benton Airport in 1959, (www.britishroadsignproject.co.uk).

Anniversary sign by Henrik Kubel.
Anniversary sign by Henrik Kubel.
Anniversary sign by Mark Bonner, GBH.
Anniversary sign by Mark Bonner, GBH.

On the road

Also worthy of your time is this light-hearted interview with Margaret Calvert discussing the original project with James May on BBC’s Top Gear.


New Transport

An updated version of the typeface has been developed by Henrik Kubel of A2/SW/HK and Margaret Calvert during 2012. One of its first public uses has been on the UK’s revamped central government website, ‘GOV.UK’, where it is has been selected as the sole font for all text.


19 September – 25 October 2015
Design Museum
London, United Kingdom

 

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