Margaret Calvert is a British typographer and graphic designer who, with colleague Jock Kinneir, designed many of the road signs used throughout the United Kingdom today.
Graphic Designer Margaret Calvert was chosen to receive the prestigious D&AD President’s Award by D&AD President Mark Bonner. This short film looks at her life in graphic design, typography and teaching.
Margaret Vivienne Calvert OBE RDI (born 1936) is a British typographer and graphic designer who, with colleague Jock Kinneir, designed many of the road signs used throughout the United Kingdom, Crown Dependencies, and British Overseas Territories, as well as the Transport font used on road signs, the Rail Alphabet font used on the British railway system, and an early version of the signs used in airports. The typeface developed by Kinneir and Calvert was further developed into New Transport and used for the single domain GOV.UK website in the United Kingdom.
Born in South Africa, Calvert moved to England in 1950, where she studied at St Paul’s Girls’ School and the Chelsea College of Art. Kinneir, her tutor there, asked her to help him design the signs for Gatwick Airport. They chose the black on yellow scheme for the signs after researching the most effective combination.
In 1957, Kinneir was appointed head of signs for Britain’s roads. He then hired Calvert to redesign the road sign system and she came up with simple, easy-to-understand pictograms, including the signs for ‘men at work’ (a man digging), ‘farm animals’ (based on a cow named Patience that lived on a farm near to where she grew up), and ‘schoolchildren nearby’ (a girl leading a boy by the hand), using the European protocol of triangular signs for warnings and circles for mandatory restrictions. The Worboys Committee was formed by the British government in July 1963 to review signage on all British roads.
In addition to her road signs, Calvert has designed commercial fonts for Monotype, including the eponymous Calvert font, a slab serif design which she created in 1980 for use on the Tyne and Wear Metro system.