Wednesday, 14 November 2012
The Keep Calm Mystery
What is it with the Keep Calm and Carry On phenomenon? What began a few years ago as a rediscovered, never issued propaganda poster from the Last Spot of Bother, designed to sustain morale if things got really hairy, has spread to encompass everything - stationery in all its forms, T-shirts, mobile phone covers, textiles, wallpaper, you name it. There's a book, a website, an online Keep Calm-o-matic on which all manner of variations on the theme can be forged (one of the better ones is illustrated here) - it's only a matter of time before there's a Keep Calm and Carry On theme park...
Why has this clunkily designed poster with its functional sanserif and flat Tudor crown become the popular design phenomenon de nos jours? Does it, as some have suggested, chime with the hard times we're supposedly living through, reminding us of the great British spirit of stoically muddling through? Or is it rather (as I suspect) an example of austerity chic, a product of easy rather than hard times?
The last time a 'look' take off on quite this all-engulfing scale was when The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady was published in the late 70s and its vapid watercolour style inspired a 'look' that gradually spread across the land. There were, I remember, various attempts to explain it, but none of them was convincing. These things just happen, and in time they fade away and are forgotten. All we can do is, er, keep calm and carry on.