Keep Calm and Carry On was the third in a series of World War 2 posters drawn up by the UK Ministry of Information in order to boost the morale of the British people by passing on a message from King George VI. The posters were a stark white text on a red background, with the only image on the poster being the royal crown of George VI.
The first two posters, “Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution will Bring Us Victory” and “Freedom is in Peril” were widely printed and distributed. However, the third poster, which carried the simple message “Keep Calm and Carry On” although printed, was never distributed, as it was intended only if invasion was imminent.
At the end of the war, the posters were collected up and pulped. It is believed that only two original posters out of a print run of over a million survive to this day.
The story would have ended there were it not for Stuart and Mary Manley, who run a bookshop called Barter Books in Northumberland. Whilst sorting through a box of old books, they found one of the few surviving original copies of the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster. They liked it so much that they had the poster framed and placed near the till in their shop.
They soon found that customers were very keen on the poster – even to the point of asking if they could buy it! So, Stuart and Mary started selling and printing facsimilie copies of the poster. The rest, as they say, is history…
In the nine years since 2000 the poster has become world famous, having been mentioned in news articles, on TV and having been seen in many disparate places from country pubs to Parliament.
These days everybody can create their own “Keep Calm” let’s check some examples:
You can see more “Keep calm” masterpieces on these links:
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
So was this poster real?
Yes! Although it was never published, it was a real poster that was produced by the UK Government during the Second World War.
Who produced it?
It was produced by the Ministry of Information – a Government Department set up at the beginning of the war with the primary aim of producing propaganda material. They produced many famous campaigns including the classic ‘Careless talk costs lives’ campaign.
Is the poster out of copyright?
The general consensus is that the poster is now out of copyright, and therefore can be freely reproduced and mashed up. Spare a thought, however, for Barter Books who rediscovered this classic poster. They are an independent bookshop in the UK who sell reproductions of the original poster, and I’d strongly suggest that if you want to buy a ‘Keep Calm’ poster you pay their website a visit first.
What font does the poster use?
Anyone under the age of 20 or so might not believe this, but there was a time when computers didn’t exist. The Keep Calm poster was hand-designed by a (sadly) anonymous civil servant and as such doesn’t use a standard font. However a very clever chap called Keith Bates has painstakingly recreated the original font as closely as possible by taking examples from the original Keep Calm poster and the two other posters in the same series. You can buy his font from his website.
Also, according to discussions at typophile.com the closest pre-existing match is a font called Avenir by the famous font artist Adrian Frutiger, which can be purchased from Linotype. The next best match is a font called Gotham which is available only from its creators Hoefler & Frere-Jones.
Want a bit more? Why not listen Gene Krupa and Roy Eldridge song?
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