Keep Calm, but Carry On…?

Two things got me thinking about copyright issues recently. One was that a friend of mine, Sian, from The Strawberry Card Company, had one of her designs lifted wholesale by someone in San Diego. (Either that, or the culprit is actually called ‘Dan Diego’, and that isn’t actually a typo…) Anyway, read about it here!

Please note that the following pieces of work have never been seen in the same room together:

Would the real Strawberry Design print please step forward? (The original is on the right, by the way...)

Then on the very self same day, I read on the BBC about Mark Coop who has, in an apparent effort to make himself less popular than a breakdancing porcupine at a naturist balloon modelling convention, registered a trademark against the Keep Calm And Carry On name on a certain range of products thereby restricting its commercial use by anyone he believes to be copying his company’s products.

Needless to say, this has put the litiginous cat amongst the furious pigeons, many of whom have been using the 1930s Ministry of Information propaganda slogan on everything from mugs to bags  to place mats and everything inbetween since its rediscovery in 2000. Examples can be seen here, as if you needed reminding:

Keep Calm and, um, Wipe Your Feet...?

No, I don't know why, either.

Not altogether surprisingly, an enthusiastically angry campaign has been mounted in opposition to Coop’s actions, led in part by Stuart Manley, owner of Barter Books, who found an original copy of the poster in his shop (most were destroyed at the end of the war). In the interest of fairness, you can read Mark’s defence of his actions here.

Stuart Manley with his framed copy of the original poster

It’ll be interesting to see which way this goes, especially for me as I’m
a) a designer, generally;
b) a designer who more specifically spent four years working part time for  the Civil Service; will any of my work be found in the bowels of a Government memory stick  70 years from now and plastered across merchandise the world over? I think ‘Leadership and Strategy for Efficient and Flexible Public Services in The Twenty First Century’ has a catchy ring, even if the mugs and tee shirts will have to be a bit, um, wider; and
c) a card designer, as nowhere has the phrase ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ (and a seemingly endless selection of clumsy variants) been more omnipresent than on the front of greetings cards.

Like most people, I loved it the first time I saw it. Five years down the line, it’s started to, shall we say, wear a bit thin… I may be longing in vain for its demise, however: as one trader told me at a huge trade show last month, “It still sells.” Clearly that unknown civil service designer didn’t get paid nearly enough…

So if we can’t get rid of the pesky thing, let’s at least end with some imaginative interpretations. It’s particularly interesting to see a message originally intended as being ‘from the King to his people’ now being used in some interesting ways to criticise the establishment…

As seen at last week's Block The Bill demo against NHS privatisation

Available from

and my personal favourite:

Carry on.


One response to “Keep Calm, but Carry On…?

  1. Perhaps the prize for best parody should have gone to Modern Toss (i think) for their posters which appeared in 2008/9 stating: “Buy more sh*t or we’re all fu*ked”.

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