Keep Calm and Carry On

Keep Calm is a family of fonts developed from the now famous World War 2 poster that was designed in 1939 but never issued, then rediscovered in 2000. As well as the original Keep Calm font, the medium weight of the poster, new weights are now available – Keep Calm Book (regular weight), Heavy and Light – and each weight comes with a complimentary italic.

Version 2.0 (2017) is a comprehensive update which consists of numerous refinements and improvements across all weights. The family now contains a full complement of Latin Extended-A characters, Welsh diacritics and Irish dotted consonants. The four italics have been optically corrected with revised, ‘true italic’ forms of a and f.

Keep Calm

When I first saw the Keep Calm and Carry On poster, I wrongly assumed the letters to be Gill Sans. Recent research at the National Archive by Dr. Bex Lewis of Manchester Metropolitan University has revealed that the original poster was hand drawn by the illustrator and painter, Ernest Wallcousins. The Gill Sans influence is apparent, in the R particularly, the M’s perfectly pointed vertex is redolent of Johnston’s Underground, and the most anomalous character, the C, resembles the ‘basic lettering’ of engineers that provided the vernacular sources for the Gotham typeface.

Developing the Keep Calm typeface has been an exercise in extrapolation; an intriguing challenge to build a whole, high quality font family based on the twelve available capitals of the Keep Calm poster, and on similar lettering from the other two posters in the original series. This has required the creation of new lowercase letters that are believably 1939; that maintain the influence of Gill and Johnston while also hinting at the functional imperative of a wartime drawing office. Wallcousins’s lettering balanced intuitive human qualities and the pure pleasure of drawing elegant contemporary characters, against an underlying geometry of ruled lines, perfect circles, 45° terminals, and a requirement for no-nonsense clarity.

The lowercase g follows the Gill / Johnston eyeglass model, but also included is an alternative, single-storey g at the Alt-G keystroke (Alt-0169 on Windows) normally used for the copyright symbol, which has been relocated elsewhere in the fonts.

An alternative lowercase t, without the curved wedge cutaway, is provided at the Alt-T (dagger) keystroke (Alt-0134 on Windows).

Keep Calm

The crown motif from the top of the Keep Calm poster is located at the plus minus ± and section § keystrokes (Alt 0177 and Alt 0167 on Windows).