The Fascinating History of the Iconic ‘KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON’ Poster (and what we can learn from it) This week’s “Coffee with Colm”

We’ve all seen it. Red background, white font, striking typeface, “KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON” in CAPS, and of course, the crown.

Never gave it much thought until now to be honest. Then I stumbled across its history and it blew my mind.

Roll back seventy five years this week and the Allied Forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, setting in train a series of events that would ultimately end World War 2.

Back in Britain, the people were weary from years of war and still reeling from the blitz of 1940 – 1941. These were tough times.  In fairness to Winston Churchill he managed to keep morale up when at times I assume it must have felt hopeless.

The British Government commissioned a series of three posters, one of which was rarely seen, the third, “KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON”. The other two were posted far and wide in train stations, at sea and air ports, in cities and towns and were specifically designed to to assist with that morale-boosting effort.

The concept was simple, the design simply brilliant, the effect, tremendous.

All three were designed around a two-colour format; white font on a single colour background, striking typeface in CAPS, and of course the crown image, representing the crown of King George VI. Sheer brilliance if you ask me.

The messages, equally simple, equally brilliant and most importantly, effective.

And you and I can take lessons from them seventy five years on.

To find out more, watch the five-minute video, listen to the five-minute podcast, or read on below…

The first poster:

YOUR COURAGE, YOUR CHEERFULNESS, YOUR RESOLUTION WILL BRING US VICTORY could, today, be read as YOUR COURAGE, YOUR CHEERFULNESS, YOUR RESOLUTION WILL BRING YOU VICTORY.

Think about it.

Do you need courage to succeed in this life (regardless of how you define success)? Yes. Does it help to be cheerful? Of course. Must you be resolute? Absolutely.

The second poster, also widely distributed during the war:

FREEDOM IS IN PERIL, DEFEND IT WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT regrettably speaks to the times we are in in the early part of the 21st Century. Our freedoms seem to be challenged at every hands’ turn. Governments, Big industry, Global Warming, Trump Administration, ISIS, Brexit – nothing is very stable and what is at risk? Yours and my freedom. We need to be careful out there boys and girls and not allow society slide into the abyss.

You have the right to be free, to choose the life you want to lead, in any way you wish, to pursue your goals and dreams and happiness, whatever they mean to you, so long as you don’t stop others doing the same for themselves. So perhaps the 2019 version might read: YOUR FREEDOM IS IN PERIL, DEFEND IT WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT.

Which brings us to the third.

Why is it the most iconic?

Firstly, ironically, it was rarely, if ever seen; not having been distributed much as the war came to an end. The fighting stopped, the rebuild began, the posters (including “KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON”) were stuffed in drawers.

Eventually, a bookshop owner stumbled across the third poster, framed it and hung it in his shop. The punters started asking for copies, and the rest, as they say, is *ahem* history!

Fascinating!

Yet again its words ring true today, almost a century later:

“KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON” – all that’s missing perhaps are two words:

YOU MUST KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON”

Whatever life you want to lead, my friend, so long as it is worthy of your time and honours you, the individual, while respecting others’ rights to do the same, can be achieved by following the amazing wisdom found in a simple series of three wartime posters (with tiny personal tweaks):

  • “YOUR COURAGE, YOUR CHEERFULNESS, YOUR RESOLUTION WILL BRING YOU VICTORY”
  • “YOUR FREEDOM IS IN PERIL, DEFEND IT WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT”
  • YOU MUST KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON”

Think about it.

END.

Thanks for thinking with me.

Yours truly.

Colm

Watch | Listen | Read | Think.

Did you enjoy that? Fancy a sip of some of my recent “Coffee with Colm” Blog posts:

  • Apparently most deathbed regrets are around things left undone, risks not taken (or why we need to be braver), click here.
  • I’m never down. I’m either up or I’m getting up. (or why it’s ok to not be ok at times) – click here.
  • Why Professionals Never Lose and why “They is You” – click here.

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DEEP DIVE. If you would like to go deeper in your own personal journey, you can review the first step in my “12 Steps to Create the Life You Really Want” for FREE. Check it out here.

LINKEDIN. Perhaps the thing to do right now is simply to hook up professionally on LinkedIn – if that’s of interest, click here.

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