The name Akzidenz-Grotesk might not ring a bell. But the blue-and-white modernist style of Britain’s motorway signage—designed in the late 50s by Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert—is instantly recognizable (it was inspired by the typeface Akzidenz-Grotesk, released in Berlin in 1896). Over a 60-year graphic-design career, Calvert has had a hand in shaping Britain’s national identity. Those yellow-and-black Tyne and Wear Metro symbols? She designed them. The classic white-and-red “children crossing” signs? The older child is based on herself, recognizable by the bowl cut she’s stayed with all her life. In the mid 1960s Calvert provided the design for the British Rail, which was seeking coherence following its 1948 nationalization. Today, Calvert is back in the spotlight with a design for Network Rail. The new typeface, included in this exhibition, retains hints of its earlier modernism but incorporates crisper letterform, as if you’d just put on a perfectly prescribed pair of reading glasses. —J.V.
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