What is 'Keep Calm and Carry On'?
Right. Pay attention at the back, and no slouching.
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 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.
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 poster is 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.
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.
We have both Keith Bates' 'Keep Calm' font and the Avenir font available for use on the Keep Calm-o-matic, allowing for even closer reproductions of the original poster.
Some of the information on this page is courtesy of Bex Lewis and her extremely helpful PhD thesis on World War 2 propaganda pages. We recommend you visit her site at www.ww2poster.co.uk for more information.
About the Keep Calm-o-matic
Back in the mists of time (early 2009 to be precise) the phenomenon that is “Keep Calm and Carry On” was in full swing. Posters were appearing everywhere, news articles could barely resist mentioning “Keep Calm” and even the police got into the act with their Policing Pledge posters which seemed to bear an eerie resemblance to everyone's favourite wartime poster.
So, with all that in mind, what better than a parody site allowing people to create their own posters? A flash of frantic coding later, and the Keep Calm-o-matic was born! The site was the the first Keep Calm poster generation site on the web, and it remains the best and most popular one by a long way.
Who is behind it?
The Keep Calm-o-matic was made and is run by the team at Reincubate, a British technology company. We're a friendly bunch. If you'd like to send us any feedback, please use the bright red feedback button in the lower right of every page page. We always love to see pictures of the poster out and about.
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How can I support the site?
Firstly, please do tell people about it, be that via Twitter, Facebook, bulletin boards or even good old fashioned word of mouth. You can also buy merchandise, for which we receive a commission. This can either be in the form of pre-prepared “Keep Calm” images from our online shop or you can buy merchandise with your own image once you have created your own Keep Calm poster.