There are bucket loads of iconic images in this day and age, but there are few as simple and timeless as Keep Calm and Carry On. As a person who loves words, this poster appeals to me on a very basic level. It’s such a simple message and the fact that the English government never thought that the situation was sufficiently dire to use it makes me smile at their indomitable nature. It feels to me as if they could be on fire, but would still apologize if they bumped into you. It’s something I’ve often admired in the British culture. What I didn’t realize was the story behind how we met this poster.
First, I’ve thrown around the idea of opening a bookstore for a few years now. After watching this video, I’m totally adding a toy train to my hypothetical store. Why? Because everything needs trains. Seriously. You don’t often hear the I-found-it-at-the-bottom-of-a-box-in-my-bookstore stories anymore. Should I ever find myself in Northumberland, I will absolutely be stopping into Barter Books. (For briefly visiting that link back there, they have Marvin from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in their banner. How have I not been to this bookstore before?)
Second: This is a bit of a re-hash, but I think the reason this poster is so appealing to people, over and above the design level, is because it harkens back to an era when newscasters preached calmness, not the artificially heightened paranoia and panic of the age we live in. I get so tired of everything being a threat to America, or freedom, or people in general. Oh noes, the fat person is going to destroy the very fabric of our society! This poster cuts through all that crap and leaves one with an oddly simple peacefulness that almost never happens in this century. In fact, I really can’t remember anything from our era that has the same ability to instill steadfastness. The people in that era carried on and their media reflected that. People still carry on today, it happens all the time, but the media seems to be completely disjointed from that, making it appear that we all live in a constant panic about the next thing we’ve never heard of that’s going to kill us with cancer unless we all smarten up now.
Third: I love that the British government actively told its citizens that their cheerfulness would win them victory. It seems like the America media spend more time telling us that we don’t wear enough frowny faces since we’re in a war. The thought that cheerfulness could win a war feels like it comes from a different universe. It’s comforting to know that it came from mine.