A hundred years on, Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinneir continue to be revered for their execution of one of Britain’s most important design projects – the road and motorway signage system.
Jock was one of the most influential graphic designers of the 20th century, along with his one-time pupil and later business partner Margaret. Jock and Margaret’s signage system became a role model for modern road signage all over the world.
His design processes remain invaluable to current designers, and Jock’s family hope to make his methodology available online with the launch of the Jock Kinneir Library - 100 years after his birth.
Jock’s grandchildren Simon and Anna Kinneir launched the online repository, which is expected to host a range of teaching briefs, workshops, interviews and biographical details for teachers, students or anyone interested in his life and his user-focused design methods.
The independent initiative not only celebrates Jock’s legacy within graphic design, but provides an academic resource. It’s lesser known that Jock taught for a decade at the Royal College of Art from 1964, and was head of the graphic design department for five years.
The site is currently in beta stage, and Jock's grandchildren are asking for contributions from anyone who has worked with Jock, studied under him, been inspired by his work or have memories with him. By March 21 – 100 days from its launch last Saturday – the site plans to launch officially with a comprehensive collection of memories and information.
The library has begun to take shape through the help of Margaret Calvert, type designer Henrik Kubel, the V&A and RCA archive team.
The new Design Museum features signage by Jock and Margaret, including the pair of typefaces that defined it: Transport and Motorway.
In the 1960s graphic designer Herbert Spencer indicated how Britain’s road signs were in desperate need of coherency through a photography project. The government of the time entrusted the design makeover with Margaret and Jock, who coordinated lettering, colours, shapes and symbols for Britain’s new motorways in the 1950s and all other roads in the 1960s.
Their system remains largely unchanged today, over 50 years later. The pair went on to complete other public sector design projects, such as the Rail Alphabet typeface designed for British Rail, as well as hospitals, the army and airport signage in Australia.
Simon Kinneir is a trained graphic designer who specialises in inclusive design, focusing on sight loss. Anna Kinnier is co-director of Makerversity Amsterdam, which supports creative start-ups.