The South African lady who revolutionised British traffic signage

In this article we learn about how 60 years ago Margaret Calvert from South Africa changed the face of British road signs.


Margaret was born in South Africa in 1936, then moved to London age 14 to continue her education. She went on from school to study under a respected graphic design called Jock Kinneir, she was only 21 when she began the massive undertaking of rebranding the British road system.

Together Jock Kinneir & Margaret were hired to design signs for the first motorway in Britain, the Preston By-pass, opened in 1958, 60 years ago. Their designs for the motorway signage were crisp & colour-coded leaving no doubt for the public as to what type of road they were using. The colours did not clash with the surrounding countryside but more importantly the fact that all white areas on the signage were reflective whilst the blue stayed a flat colour. This made the signage ultra clear at night, a clever design when it comes to road safety and saving lives.

Not only did the pair design many of the standard traffic sign symbols you see today, they also designed their own new typeface for the signage. We know these fonts today as Transport and Motorway. Their designs have lasted the course of time and are so widely recognised, they have even been adopted by other countries.

Happily Margaret Calvert was awarded the OBE in 2016 and this year was nominated as one of the woman of the century for her lasting contribution.

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