copy-writing, creating, designing, outdoor, praising

Keep Calm and Carry On – the History of a Poster: and what brands should learn from the elegance and simplicity of its resonant slogan

Keep_calm_poster I popped into The Only Place for Pictures on Upper Street over the weekend and came across the history of the Keep Calm and Carry on poster that's been in and around for a while.  fascinating history and a reminder that simple, elegant copy writing can lodge long in the consciousness, finding new and evolved meanings over time…  what brands would give for slogans with this degree of resonance so long after its original inception.

I've copied the full text from the note in the shop below, enjoy…

in the spring of 1939, with war against Germany all but inevitable, the British Government's Ministry of Information commissioned a series of propaganda posters to be distributed throughout the country at the onset of hostilities.  it was feared that in the early months of the war Britain would be subjected to gas attacks, heavy bombing raids and even invasion.  the posters were intended to offer the public reassurances in the dark days which lay ahead.

the posters were required to be uniform in style and were to feature 'special and handsome' typeface making them difficult for the enemy to counterfeit.  the intent of the poster was to convey a message from the King to his people, to assure them that 'all necessary measures to defend the nation were being taken', and to stress an 'attitude of mind' rather than any specific aim.  on the eve of war which Britain was ill-equipped to fight, it was not possible to know what the nations's future aims and objectives would be.

at the end of August 1939 three designs went into production with an overall print budget of £20,600 for five million posters.  the first poster, of which over a million were printed, carried a slogan suggested by a civil servant names Waterfield.  using the crown of George VI as the only graphic device, the stark red and white poster read 'Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution will bring us Victory'.  a similar poster, of which around 600,000 were issued, carried the slogan 'Freedom is in Peril'.  but the third design, of which over 2.5 million posters were printed, simply read 'Keep Calm and Carry On'.

the first two designs were distributed in September 1939 and immediately began to appear in shop windows, on railway platforms, and on advertising hoardings up and down the country.  but the 'Keep Calm' posters were held in reserve, intended for use only in times of crisis or invasion.  although some may have found their way onto Government office walls, the poster was never officially issued and so remained virtually unseen by the public – unseen, that is, until a rare copy turned up more than fifty years later in a box of old books bought in auction by Barter Books in Alnwick.

shop owners Stuart and mary manley liked the poster so much that they had it framed and placed near the till in Barter Books.  it quickly proved so popular with customers and attracted so many enquiries that in 2001 Stuart and Mary decided to print and sell a facsimile edition of their original poster which has since become a best-seller, both in the shop and via te internet.

the Ministry of Information commissioned numerous other propaganda posters for use on the home front during the Second World War.  some have become well-known and highly collectible, such as the acrtoonist Fougasse's 'careless Talk Costs Lives' series.  but ours has remained a secret until now.  unfortunately, we cannot acknowledge the individuals responsible for the 'Keep Calm' poster.  but it's a credit to those nameless artists that long after the war was won people everywhere are still finding reassurance in their distinctive and handsome design, an the very special 'attitude of mind' they managed to convey.

Primary source of information: Lewis, R.M., 'Undergraduate Thesis: The planning, design and reception of British home front propaganda posters of the Second World War'.  written April 1997.  accessed April 2007.

Barter Books, Alnwick Station, Northumberland NE66 2NP, England

Postscript: since the 'Keep Calm and Carry On' poster was rediscovered in Barter Books in 2000, it has become a national icon.  to read about the ongoing story of this remarkable survivor, click here.

designing, experiencing, innovating

Japan Car at the Science Museum: how Japan’s car manufacturers are imagining a networked future for our cars

Japan car model
a trip to the Science Museum on Friday saw Mediation and colleagues visit the Japan Car exhibition.  described as an exploration of the car as a 'mobile cell', the exhibition shows how Japanese car design reflects the 'soil and the
spirit of Japan'.  click thru for the exhibition's Flickr and YouTube sites.

one of the most interesting aspects of the exhibition was said exploration of car as mobile cell;

"The future will bring more than individual drivers each controlling a single car.  cars will become parts of whole transport systems integrated with the surrounding city.  the essence of a car us already shifting from its drive train to its information systems … The concept of cars evolving into moving urban cells is visualised by portraying cars as blood corpuscles flowing through capillaries."

the concept is captured in this video from the exhibition, which shows visual representations of traffic volumes and traffic flows around central Tokyo; generated from GPS signals continuously transmitted from several thousand cars.

"the cars are seen to be circulating, radiating out from the central area near the Imperial Palace just like red blood cells traveling around the body through a network of blood vessel centred on the heart".  its a very new way of examining how the nature of the network will come to predominate how we communicate – both passively and actively – with each other.

how long before cars get their own social networking system?  our vehicles constantly transmitting data about where they go and how they get there to their Facebook equivalent?  what will they learn from each other?  and what will we learn from them?

great exhibition, which the manufacturers don't seem to have capitalised on in a wider marketing perspective.  perhaps these things are just better left to exist in isolation; another element to be added – by consumers – to their brand molecules (as theorised by John Grant in After Image).  then again, Mediation can't help but think there was an opportunity (missed) to take the great contents of the exhibition to a wider – broadcast – audience.  press partnership anyone?  …anyone?

Japan car blossom

Japan car in bitsJapan car streamline

 Japan car illustration

Japan car bonsai

designing, engaging, innovating

Exploring a new word order: visualising word associations with Visuwords’s online graphical dictionary

Visuwords I've been pointed in the direction of the wonderful visuwords application by Eva.  describing itself as an 'online graphical dictionary', it assembles words in space depending on their relationship to each other.  so in the above example brandmark (verb: "mark with a brand or trademark") is three steps away from symbol (noun: "an arbitrary sign (written or printed) that has acquired a conventional significance).

it would be even cooler if you could click on a word and then
subsequently see the association cloud emerge from that word; but then
you wouldn't want to lose too many hours on a word association
breadcrumb trail…

a great tool for quick desk reference when writing decks, brainstorms or to explore the word associations of brand names or positionings.  try typing in Absolute for example, and you're not far away from arbitrary, living and infinite; not such bad word-company for a radio brand in the early 21st Century.

designing, innovating, praising

Speaking a thousand words: the legacy of Emory Douglas’ guerilla images

an image from the Emory Douglas exhibition at Manchester's Urbis Gallery

Mediation was in Manchester this weekend and found time to catch the Emory Douglas exhibition at the splendid Urbis centre in the city.  it charts the origins of the Black Panther movement and more specifically the work of Emory Douglas – the first and only Minister of Culture for the party – who illustrated the philosophical and ideological views of the party and its supporters.

the bold combinations of graphic design, drawing and slogans still resonate strongly today, but Douglas went beyond the creation and publication of his illustrations, he used media to great effect too.  the exhibition leaflet observes that Douglas "turned the city into a gallery, papering the streets with posters".  it was arguably this very public display of his revolutionary imagery that gave them such power.

Douglas' media legacy has some diverse beneficiaries.  the National Gallery's Grand Tour is turning the walls of buildings inside out – publicly displaying and in doing so democratising access to stunning works of art.  artist Banksy too owes much to Douglas' trailblazing – it is the public nature of the graffiti artist's work that generates most conversation and debate around his anti-state messages.

if a picture truly is worth a thousand words, then Douglas spoke volumes.  when browsing the commercial posters on display on the average UK highstreet, how many brands can say the same?

content creating, designing, engaging, experiencing, gaming, social networking, user-generating

What brands can learn from Superstruct’s invitation to fix the future

you are officially invited to create and explore the world in 2019. but be warned, it's not going to be pretty.  the Institute For The Future has developed Superstruct, an ARG that aims – with a massive number of players' help – to chronicle the dark future they predict for us, then help them fix it.

"With Superstruct IFTF introduces a revolutionary new forecasting tool:
Massively Multiplayer Forecasting Games (MMFGs). MMFGs are
collaborative, open source simulations of a possible future. Each MMFG
focuses on a unique set of “future parameters,” which we cull from
IFTF’s forecast research. These parameters define a future scenario: a
specific combination of transformative events, technologies,
discoveries and social phenomenon that are likely to develop in the
next 10 to 25 years. We then open up the future to the public, so that
players can document their personal reactions to the scenario."

its a fascinating concept.  taking the ARG to the next level and using Surowiecki's Wisdom of Crowds to capture and identify our most likely (and most successful) responses to multiple 21st Century threats.  you can join the simulation and watch videos outlining the 'superthreats' we face on the Superstruct website.

brands could learn a lot from this endeavour.  at it's most basic, the IFTF – thru Superstruct – is encouraging a community of people to engage with an idea.  that isn't a million miles from what most advertisers want people to do – only they generally use advertising to convey the idea.  and are then a bit vague about how people can get involved; other than buy stuff of course.

but if a brand really wanted to break the mold.  if a marketing team really wanted to explore and communicate something in which they believed by creating a platform thru which a community of people could genuinely engage with the idea, the brand and each other… they could.  think how much more powerful M&S's Plan A campaign would have been if they had engaged with a massive community of people to explore ways to make sure we didn't have to resort to plan b.  think how much more traction you could get by using media to communicate the project and report its progress.

the risks are huge.  you have to be radically transparent; but most brands have to be radically transparent already.  if you get it wrong no one will care; but if you get it wrong now people can filter your messages out.  you have to be hyper-creative; but creativity has never been more important.  you have to rely on people pro-actively and constructively contributing to the platform; but people demonstrate time and time again that this is something they're increasingly comfortable doing.

and if the risks are huge, the rewards are greater.  get it right and you not only engage an audience in something your brand stands for, but your brand may even make a bit of a difference…  as well as creating affinity and customer value – and therefore revenues – on the way…