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For services to typography and road safety

June 13, 2016

One of Britain’s most effective information design projects is the road and motorway signage system designed by Jock Kinneir (1917-1994) and Margaret Calvert (b. 1936) between 1957 to 1967.

Margaret Calvert OBEPhoto via The Drum

In the 2016 Queen’s honours, Margaret has been awarded an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) for services to typography and road safety.

Margaret Calvert typography

A505 road sign

Nottingham road signImages via The Design Museum

As well as Margaret’s work on the Transport typeface, she came up with simple, easy-to-understand pictograms, including the signs for men at work, schoolchildren nearby, and farm animals (based on a cow named Patience that lived on a farm near to where she grew up), all based on pre-existing European road signs.

Cattle road sign UK

Men at work road sign UK

In an interview with The Guardian, Margaret said the hardest, but most satisfying sign, is the “children crossing.”

“The first school sign was a torch, then a boy followed by a girl with a satchel — it looked very grammar school. I wanted it to look more inclusive so you couldn’t tell if it was secondary modern or grammar. And I wanted it to be more caring — so I made the little girl lead the little boy. But it needed to have something urgent about it.”

Children road sign UK

It’s not often when graphic designers receive awards from the Queen.

Great to see.

And a testament to the quality of work when we accept it as “normal” rather than a driving distraction.

More UK road signs on GOV.UK (the Government website uses just one typeface, New Transport — a redrawn version of the original).

Margaret Calvert elsewhere

The Time of the Signs, an interview on Frieze
Jock Kinnear and Margaret Calvert, in The Design Museum
The road sign as a design classic, on BBC
Margaret Calvert, Icon of the Year, on icon eye

And in 2015 Margaret was chosen to receive the D&AD President’s Award. This video (below) was produced as a result.