Margaret Calvert

POSTED: October 25, 2020

Everyone interested in design should know the works of Margaret Calvert. Among other things, she revolutionised British road signage.

Oliver Wainwright wrote this in The Guardian:

is almost impossible to escape Margaret Calvert. She’s standing at every motorway junction, beaming out in bold, bright letters, and at the corner of every street, warning of potential hazards ahead. Now aged 84, and still busy in her studio, the designer jointly responsible for giving British roads their visual identity is the subject of a retrospective at the Design Museum.

“I’m not quite as slim as I was back then,” says the South African-born designer, standing in front of one of her famous school crossing signs on show in the exhibition. “But the hairstyle has remained the same.” Tasked with updating the previous sign, which had depicted a grammar-school boy in a cap leading a younger girl with a satchel across the road, she decided to flip it around and put the girl in charge. She modelled the silhouette on a photo of herself as a child. Her neat bob hasn’t changed much since – nor has her ability to lead the way.

The exhibition, arranged around the atrium walls of the London museum, is timed to coincide with the launch of Calvert’s latest project, which reimagines the identity of Britain’s railways. Unveiled this week, Rail Alphabet 2 takes the typeface she originally designed for British Rail in the 1960s with the late Jock Kinneir and updates it for the digital age, making it lighter, crisper and more legible.