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Elizabeth is a Creative Director at The Hudsucker. The Vancouver-based storyteller, social media manager, and content marketer lives and loves to write about arts & entertainment and travel & culture. She is an old soul who's young at heart, a human jukebox, and a corgi lady in training. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @ElizabethThe.

The More You Know: Keep Calm and Carry On!

via keepcalmandcarryon.com

via keepcalmandcarryon.com

Curious cat Elizabeth Rosalyn has chosen to put her Google/Wikipedia researching skills to good use by sharing her findings on random topics in her next installment of “The More You Know”. This month, she is on a mission to uncover the history of the slogan, “Keep Calm and Carry On”.

You’ve seen the positive mantra plastered all over a variety of products – from posters to t-shirts and everything else in-between – but do you know the original purpose of the phrase? To all of you history buffs of the World War II, British, and Propaganda variety, keep calm and listen on…

In 1939, with the forthcoming outbreak of the Second World War looming, the British government set about commissioning its Ministry of Information (for publicity and propaganda) to design and produce morale boosting posters that would be displayed throughout Britain during the trying times ahead. The project was intended to raise the spirits of and provide reassurance to the British public in case of wartime crisis by promoting the message that when the going gets tough, the tough get going!

The first two posters of three-piece set featured the slogans, “Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution, Will Bring Us Victory” and “Freedom is in Peril, Defend it With All Your Might“, and were posted around public transport stations, in shop windows, and on notice boards. Each poster followed a uniformly simplistic style, with the symbolic emblem of King George VI’s crown and a clear-to-read, sans-serif typeface set against a solid-coloured background.

The final poster of the set contained the most succinct, distinctive, and effective slogan of the bunch – “Keep Calm and Carry On“. The plan in place for these bold red posters was to keep the set under reserve and issue them only upon catastrophic disaster. As this never happened, the poster was never officially seen by the public, leaving 2.5 million copies printed, forgotten, and unaccounted for, until…

One of the original Keep Calm and Carry On posters was re-discovered in 2000 by Stuart and Mary Manley, the two founders of Barter Books (a second-hand bookshop in Alnwick,  Northumberland), who had stumbled across a copy within a box of books purchased from an auction. The original was framed and displayed in the shop until the idea to sell copies of the motivational poster took off during the Christmas of 2005.

Since its introduction to our modern generation, the Keep Calm and Carry On mantra has become a widespread, recognizable, and iconic cultural phenomenon. The “Keep Calm” slogan been re-issued by numerous companies for decorative use on a range of products, re-defined to suit a variety of contexts and lifestyles (Keep Calm and… Have a Cupcake, Rock On, Don’t Forget to Be Awesome, etc.), and re-structured to ignite new memes and parodies (Now Panic and Freak Out!)

While some disapprove of the cultural appropriation of “Keep Calm” for concern of the commercialization and trivialization of this historical idea/artifact, the motivational mantra has still retained its important meaning today. As we continue to face injustice and inequality in our communities, it remains crucial to help inspire peace of mind and confidence among people from nations around the world. It is a vividly visual reminder to keep optimism and hope alive… to Keep Calm and Carry On.

[youtube http://youtu.be/FrHkKXFRbCI]
Keep Calm and Carry On: The Story of the Second World War Poster (via BarterBooksLtd)

You can customize your very own Keep Calm design at keepcalmandcarryon.com! Share your personal creation in the comments!

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] The More You Know: Keep Calm and Carry On! […]

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