Keep Calm & Carry On

The story of the WWII Poster


You have probably stumbled across this poster several times, but never really understood the message it carries. This is no ordinary poster. The story of this plain and simple poster dates all the way back to the second World War. I happened to come across a recent post via twitter, where I watched a short film that told the story of  this ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster. It originates at the beginning of WWII and  rediscovered in a bookshop in England in 2000, becoming one of the iconic images of the 21st century.

History of this poster –  WWII (1939)

During WWII the British government created a series of posters that were to be used in times of war, that would provide the people with reassurance. These poster were to be uniform in appearance and also carried a uniform typeface and an image of the crown of King George the sixth, which would make it hard for the enemy to copy. These poster were designed only in two colors and out of all the design, 3 were finalized & went in to print. These poster aimed at  creating a sense of peace and confidence among the people during the time of war. There were 3 simple designs, that carried 3 simple messages. Out of which 2 were printed and distributed by the government. However the remaining one poster never made it out officially, until 2000 !

These were the 3 printed designs:

Out of the 3 designs, the second and the third were printed and distributed in the cities. However the first poster bearing the words “Keep calm…” was never distributed and intended to be used only in times of invasion . In the end this poster was never officially issued.

The Rediscovery:

Almost 50 years layer, this poster was rediscovered in a second hand bookshop in England. I could go on and describe its amazing rediscovery, but I think by Temujin Doran  and Nation (Concept and production) have done a beautiful job with this video.


Today only a handful of the original posters survive and most are held by the British National Archives. Only two posters are in private hands, one is held by and one by Barter Books in Alnwick, Northumberland (responsible for starting the recent popularity of the poster). This beautiful short film tells you the story of how it was rediscovered in a second hand book store in England. Even the bookstore has an amazing story – A railway station converted into a book store. It was only after the poster went up in the bookstore that people discovered it. Over the years people have replicated and sold this poster. Many seem to connect with the message it carries. While some just appreciate its design. Whatever maybe the reason, its hard for me to understand, why a phrase from the past decade would have so much appeal now. Is it the design ? Is it the message? Or perhaps its the words and simplicity it carries. Its something that many of us need in today’s busy life. Keep Calm and Carry on. Very few have been able to speak through their design. This definitely one  of the most connecting and engaging poster I have seen. Its almost like a voice out of history, for me. It offers a very simple and heart filled message for all, no matter whether its work, study, relationships, a struggle.

The message is simple – ” Keep Calm and Carry On.”

I have tried to dig up some more information about this poster. Feel free to check the links below:

  • The Store : Barter Books (UK)
  • Keep Calm iPhone app: Download
  • Article – “Stash of original iconic poster” (daily mail) – Read
  • Article – “The Greatest Motivational Poster Ever” (BBC News) – Read
  • Article –  “What Crisis? Keep Calm and Carry On: The Poster We Can’t Stop Buying” (Guardian) – Read
  • Article –  “Remixed Messages” (New York Times) – Read
  • More information on the Poster: Info
  • Keep Calm & Carry On wallpaper : Redesign – Download    Original design – Download
  • Scanned image of the original poster : Download
  • Buy the poster (Redesign) – Buy 
  • Keep Calm Carry On typeface – Download / Buy font
  • Purchase Keep Calm design merchandise  and products – Visit Store