Keep Calm and Carry On was a propaganda poster produced by the British government in 1939 during the beginning of the Second World War, intended to raise the morale of the British public in the event of a Nazi invasion of Great Britain. It had only limited distribution with no public display, and thus was little known. The poster was rediscovered in 2000 and has been re-issued by a number of private companies and used as the decorative theme for a range of products, and an amazing number of funny posts shared on social networking sites.

The poster was initially produced by the Ministry of Information, at the beginning of the Second World War. It was intended to be distributed in order to strengthen morale in the event of a wartime disaster. Over 2,500,000 copies were printed, although the poster was distributed only in limited numbers, and never saw public display.

The poster was third in a series of three. The previous two posters from the series, "Freedom Is In Peril. Defend It With All Your Might" (400,000 printed) and "Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory" (800,000 printed) were issued and used across the country for motivational purposes, as the Ministry of Information assumed that the events of the first weeks of the war would demoralise the population.

Planning for the posters started in April 1939; by June designs were prepared, and by August 1939, they were on their way to the printers, to be placed up within 24 hours of the outbreak of war. The posters were designed to have a uniform device, be a design associated with the Ministry of Information, and have a unique and recognisable lettering, with a message from the King to his people. An icon of a "Tudor" crown was chosen to head the poster, rather than a photograph. The slogans were created by civil servants, with a career civil servant named Waterfield coming up with "Your Courage" as "a rallying war-cry that will bring out the best in every one of us and put us in an offensive mood at once". These particular posters were designed as "a statement of the duty of the individual citizen", un-pictorial, to be accompanied by more colloquial designs. The "Your Courage" poster was much more famous during the war, as it was the first of the Ministry of Information's posters.

Rediscovery and commercialisation

In 2000, a copy of the "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster was rediscovered in Barter Books, a second-hand bookshop in Alnwick, Northumberland, North East England. Since Crown Copyright expires on artistic works created by the British government after 50 years, the image is now in the public domain. The store's owners, Stuart and Mary Manley, were thus able to reprint copies at customers' requests, as did others, inside and outside Britain. It has inspired ranges of clothing, mugs, doormats, baby clothes and other merchandise from various vendors, as well as a book of motivational quotations. Parodies of the poster, with similar type but changing the phrase or the logo (for example, an upside-down crown with "Now Panic and Freak Out"), have also been sold.

The poster's popularity has been attributed to a "nostalgia for a certain British character, an outlook" according to the Bagehot column in The Economist, that it "taps directly into the country's mythic image of itself: unshowily brave and just a little stiff, brewing tea as the bombs fall."Its message has also been felt relevant to the late-2000s recession and has been adopted as an unofficial motto by British nurses, the poster appearing in staff rooms on hospital wards with increasing frequency throughout the 2000s.  Merchandise with the image has been ordered in bulk by American financial firms and advertising agencies, and ironically it is also popular in Germany.

The poster has appeared on the walls of places as diverse as the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit at 10 Downing Street, the Lord Chamberlain's office at Buckingham Palace, and the United States embassy in Belgium. The Manleys sold some 41,000 facsimile posters between 2001 and 2009.

The poster and its parodies have appeared in almost every channel open to graphic design and graphical parody, ranging from the political messages to cute slogans. Many versions of it reference other aspects of popular culture, from the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton to the Mario videogames, with altered text, colours and iconography.

Trademark claims

In August 2011, it was reported that a UK-based company called Keep Calm and Carry On Ltd had registered the slogan as a community trade mark in the EU, after failing to trademark the slogan in the United Kingdom. They issued a take-down request against a seller of Keep Calm and Carry On products. Questions have been raised as to whether the registration could be challenged, as the slogan had been widely used before registration and is not recognisable as indicating trade origin. An application has been submitted by British intellectual property advisor and UK trademarking service Trade Mark Direct, to cancel the trademark on the grounds that the words are too widely used for one person to own the exclusive rights. The company is now trying to trademark globally in the United States and Canada.

In early 2012, Barter Books Ltd, debuted an informational short "The Story of Keep Calm and Carry On." The video provided visual insight to the modernization of the phrase as well as details surrounding the commercialization.




Source - Wikipedia - Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.