Monthly Archives: October 2012


This piece of writing examines the relationship between typography and meaning in connection to the systematic order and structure of modern society. This study will look at typography as an expression of the dynamism of modern life.

The topics to be discussed are of importance because typography in the context of movement and modern society has an implicit connection to technology, control, social classes, speed and politics. The aim of this dissertation is to discuss the way that typographic style and standardisation are related to movement and travel. It will explore this these topics through the perspective of design as well as theory. It will also look at why design began to reject ornamentation in favour of a modernism and how this affected society, movement and travel.

Research Report

To understand the relationship between typography and movement it is key understand what has been discussed before in terms of theory and design.

The industrial revolution was an event that impacted massively on design and society. Modern society was founded on the industrial revolution this period that focused on the machine and economy. Subsequently the machine brought speed and dynamism.

The machine age created a shift, systems were accepted and attitudes changed to logical thinking. Design was considered to be something that could be put into a system especially within typography. The structure and systems in typography are conceptually a framework that enables an understanding of systems and structures within society.

With the popularity of systems and the machine function was starting to be favoured over form. Designers such as Adolf Loos felt strongly about technological advancements.

Loos wrote an essay titled “Ornament is crime” written in 1908. Loos believed that the industrialisation of design and society should be embraced. Within the essay Loos suggested by using less ornamentation it meant reduced production costs and faster manufacture. This economical and machine conscious approach to design was the basis of standardisation. By standardising industrialisation it subsequently affected societies behaviour and mobility.

Speed, Movement and Systems


A prominent writer in regards to movement is Paul Virilio. In Speed & Politics Virilio discusses the relationship between speed, technologies, individuals, politics and military development.

Virilio defined his logic of speed as Dromology. Dromology also refers to the impact of speed on societies and their mobility as Virilio felt that speed and its importance throughout history has shaped civilisation today.

The technological advancements in the industrial revolution changed society dramatically in terms of mobility, people could move around faster and easier via rail or road. Even though the experience of movement changed Virilio makes it clear that movement is not something that is new or even revolutionary.

“The time has come, it seems, to face the facts: revolution is movement, but movement is not revolution.” (Virilio, 2006, p.18)

Moving is something that civilisation has always done and “In fact, there was no “industrial revolution,” but only a “dromocratic revolution.” It is speed as the nature of dromological progress that ruins progress.” (Virilio, 2006, p.46) The industrial revolution did not create mobility, but changed the nature of movement. Speed changed that way in which people moved, from walking pace to being about to travel the length of the country in a day. Virilio was concerned with this issue of speed as it changed nature; speed allowed faster movement, which allowed what was slower to be dominated.

The themes of speed and social progression are implicit to the industrial revolution; speed was seen as the future. Issues of control arise from the speed of movement and this relationship strengthens where typography is concerned. Typography can be used as a form of control. It controls space, whether it is the surface text is placed or the words that are communicated. Using typography in a system to standardise an area effectively allows control of people and movement.


Similarly to Virilio, Patrick Joyce’s theories surround social systems. Joyce’s suggests that in order to create freedom the system has to rely on a specific type of person who lives in accordance with it. He believes that maps, sewers, markets and parks can be used as a form of invisible control that would create this specific type of person.

Joyce suggests that these ideologies were built into the infrastructure of modern life and the mechanics of the city shaped culture and society. This idea of elements shaping society runs parallel to virilios’ concept of speed forming people and culture. Joyce’s defined this idea as “Sociocultural history of govermentality” (Joyce, 2003, p.6) where mobility, institutions and infrastructure affect the social part of the city.

The masses, social order and freedom in terms of mobility caused implications within the traditional social hierarchy. There was a fear of lower classes experiencing freedom as the masses could turn into “the mob”. In an attempt to control the masses the infrastructure of the city was embedded with structures and systems that would subconsciously cause the masses to behave in a specific way.

Joyce’s writing looks at standardization and creating of systems. An example of standardised system in relation to mobility and movement is mapping. Joyce refers to the modern map as standardised representation of an abstract space.

“[The modern map] measured against an abstract grid of space, what was represented – towns, streets, coastlines – became essentially one. This standardisation of space was further accentuated by the increasingly sophisticated printing of maps, especially in the ninetieth century.” (Joyce, 2003, p.36)

Creating maps of the city formed a classification system of roads and streets; this system ordered how places related to each other. Mapping documented and rejected places. By generating a visualisation of the city it was a way of controlling peoples movements, as the routes are predetermined.


Another writer who looks at structures, specifically grids and how they affect society is Hannah B. Higgins. Higgins states within “The Grid Book” that the “modernist grid is an emblem of industry. It reflects standardisation, mass production, and the newly smooth mechanics of transportation.” (Higgins, 2009, p.6) This connection created by Higgins is the link between Joyce and Virilio theories on movement and its implicit relationship to modern society.

Higgins suggests how individual grids connect to each other and how these connections provide an underlying framework for a modern society.

“They do not, however, evolve in isolation. Rather, the quality of each grid progressing to the next ties them to political, social, economic, and religious histories, each grid aligning with a different universalizing scheme.” (Higgins, 2009, p.8)

Grids are seen as tool for organisation and standardisation. For example a city is usually formed on a disguised grid system that subsequently dictates the movement of people. The popularity of systems within the industrial revolution allowed for grids as an organisational tool to define space and time as well as prosper in visual culture.

Design, Production & progression           

Along side the theoretical writing on this topic many designers have also written about the industrial revolution and its relationship to speed, standardization and its affects on society.

The Arts and Craft movement became dominant during the Victorian period along with ornamentation. Ornamentation was seen as a benefit to society rather than functional design element. During this time surface design was highly cluttered with hand rendered typography. Ralph N. Wornum suggested that the reason for ornamentation was due to it being “one of the mind’s necessities, which it gratifies by means of the eye.” (Wornum, 1856, pp.2-3) Wornum also suggests that this kind of gratification was important as it confirmed societies level of culture.

William Morris had a traditional approach to design. Morris opposed the machine and used ornamentation throughout his work and believed ornament to be a key design element, as “the ornament must form as much a part of the page as the type itself.” (Poulson & Morris, 1996, p.151) Ornament showed craftsmanship and was favoured by traditional designers. The rejection of machine production was also a rejection of changes within a modern society.

Christopher Dresser (Dresser, 1873) was member of the Arts and Craft movement. His work differed to Morris’ as Dresser accepted and appreciated the use of technology in the design process. Dresser expressed early ideas of functionalism. “Ornament depends on form, and form is determined by function.” This statement mimics Louis Sullivan’s quote “Form ever follows function” which Sullivan coined in 1896. This acceptance of functionality suggested that there was a shift in attitudes towards the design process. Once design was seen as a standardised process it also meant that perhaps society could also be systemised.

Richard G. Hatton had similar thoughts to that of Ralph Wornum, by referring to ornament as having a “social purpose” (Hatton, 1925, p.1) As Hatton suggested, if ornamented design could have a social purpose then modern standardised design could also fulfil this purpose. Subsequently this social purpose would change into a system that would control and standardise behaviour.

Between the 1800’s to the 1900’s the published work about ornamentation seems positive, until Adolf Loos infamous essay “Ornament is Crime”. Loos’ essay did not only criticize ornament but also the society that appreciated it. Loos suggested that society needed to disregard ornament as the “evolution of culture is synonymous with the removal of ornamentation from the objects of everyday use.” (Loos, 1929, p.167) Society was a main concern for Loos, he urged the public that “ornament is not a source of increased pleasure in life.” (Loos, 1929, p.169) Ralph N. Wornum also had suggested this. Loos was confident that the removal of ornament would create modern design and society. This confidence and fresh take on design was what drew him so many followers.

Since Loos’ essay there has been various books published regarding society and ornamentation. David Brett produced both “On Decoration” and “Rethinking decoration”. This suggests that the topic of ornament and its affects on society is a vast one with gaps still in the literature. Brett explains that ornament can be used when “defining characteristics of specific cultures.” (Brett, 1992) In Brett’s latter book, the theories of decorum and progress relating to decoration are investigated. (Brett, 2005) Brett describes the theory of progress, based on social evolution towards modernity, which is something that Adolf Loos was also concerned with.

Paul Greenhalgh suggests that significant historical events have an impact of society and in turn have an effect on design (Greenhalgh, 1990, p.9) For example the Industrial Revolution. Society began to be drawn to simplistic designs as the removal of decoration meant that products could be produced quicker, cheaper and for the masses. This is parallel to Loos’ thoughts surrounding design and social progress.

William Morris and John Ruskin pioneers of the Arts and Craft movement had wanted “good design available to all” (Clay, 2009) of society however their rejection of the machine meant that their products were expensive and slowly produced. By rejecting the machine and speed it allowed the Arts and Crafts movement to be left behind as modern life was changing.


I didn’t feel like there was anything to post about last week as I handed my work in and pretty much slacked off and didn’t do much concerning my dissertation or visualising it.
So this week now I have my feedback (which mostly spoke of careful editing, but all my case studies are good!) for my dissertation I can make edits to the text and try to fully engage with the visual aspect.

Today I took part in another situation brief that aimed to get the group to mix up the key parts of their dissertation and see how they linked together and what was it about that connection that made you think it was interesting.

I took the words Technological advancement, Mobility, Standardisation, Typography, Society, as I felt that these words focused on the main points and themes I brought up within my writing.
We put all our words together and were then split into groups of 3, no

w with all the words we had to create an A2 poster that had all 72 words and showed a connection/interest.

Within my group we naturally tried to categories the words into sub groups and then we looked at how they connected to each other. From this we wanted to look more so at the trends within the map, and what did it suggest.


We decided that the Anthropology & Language sort of went hand in hand, as well as Time & Technology, finally this left us with Print & Art – art being the bigger title and print being a subsection. This kind of grouping suggested that there was a process that all the dissertations looked at. Firstly it was to do with the individual/person/experience/ideas, then it went on to a process for example time/space/technology/movement, which resulted into an output/expression/art/message.


Funnily enough after this, another group had been working on the same idea, in that the words we had  resembled some kind of a process.

We also spoke about our own projects and how the visual piece might look. It was made clear to us that our visual does not have to summarise our whole dissertation, it can merely take the most interesting point or information from it. This explanation was a big help as many of us felt that a book or something was expected (well it seems the typical dissertation format)

So far I have decided that there are a few points that I want to rise, but they are all a bit different and talk about different aspects of my dissertation so I really need to pin point one of them as that would be easier than trying to convey many.

My main points of interest at this time are;

– the process of mapping and how this standardises a space (Navigation / control / mobility / freedom)
– Underlying systems whether mapping or social / typographical (sort of the same as above)
– How typography can affect someones behaviour…

Really these ideas link so I need to just create a concise statement but ultimately I am interested in the ideas of what is freedom… a map/ road signs/ timetable is a system used for mobility to enable freedom but they way in which they are created forces a kind of restraint ( whether in their design – such as grids/ or literally)

Tomorrow I’ll be editing my written work, sending it off for approval as well as working on a mind map of ideas and visuals for my final piece… tomorrow will be 3 weeks till hand in. O H  M Y  G O D

This week seems to of flown by, I literally can’t believe its the end of the 3rd week of uni already.
I’ve seemed to got ahead of schedule for the first dissertation hand in so i’ve been able to spend some time with my friends as well as have think about the visual element of my dissertation (more on that next week)

At the moment there isn’t really proper studio projects just weekly situation briefs. This weeks situation was more dissertation based and we had to look at our work so far, on a deeper level. Not editing and spell checking, but really looking at what we needed to add, what pieces of information was missing to make sure our writing made sense as well as covered all bases and loose ends.

We was meant to take along our whole dissertation which I didn’t realise to begin with so it took me around and hour to get the bloody thing printed. Either there was no printers, no paper and then finally I had no money on my card! But eventually got it printed.
First of all we looked at a simplification of our writing and how we could turn it into a question. From then on we looked at what our aims & objects were and from this we had to look through our writing as see if we did what we had set out to do.

^ This is a process of using different pens to mark out a found information, a quote to prove it, and then an opinion on the above.
There was a lot of stressing though, may of us had conflicting ideas about what was expected of us or formats that the work was meant to be in.

We also had to draw our dissertation, what it looks like at the moment, this way we could also see if there was any loose connections and how to fit all the information together. A lot of the group had pretty abstract drawings. However mine was pretty straight forward, quite logical. I think I may of came across like I didn’t want to do the task or was just being “safe” in my work, but the thing is I started this project in August, therefore I’ve spent a lot of time on it and i’ve had time to think of the structure of all the work. Perhaps this situation would have been more helpful to me two or so months ago when I was unsure of what I wanted to write about, as currently i’m pretty sure of what i’m doing and what needs to be done.

On wednesday we had a lecture by Joel Gethin Lewis who spoke about open source. The lecture was titled “What happens if we give everything away” Which is a great question, as design students we are all super conscious of people stealing our work or ideas. This lecture looked at ideas and projects in a different perspective. By allowing people to use, change, edit even copy work, you’re allowing the possibility of it becoming better.

He spoke of open source as not just coding or comptuery things but as a concept in general. Many of the questions from students at the end were surround the ideas of stealing or copying work. But he was pretty confident that them issues did not matter at all.

This lecture was definitely an eye opener. For example I run the risk of my dissertation being copied as I publish it online, but I think that its helpful to others as well as showing people what I am up to. People can read my work, talk to me about it, it can help them in writing their own dissertation, it can help them understand theories I have explored from another perspective… If I had not read so much information online perhaps I wouldn’t be able to produce the writing that I have. I agree with Joel that sharing work is important.

I’m looking forward to next weeks lecture, not sure what it is mind… but I would say that the lecture from Joel was one of the funniest as well as interesting I heard in a long long long time!


This piece of writing has investigated the issues surrounding typography and its relation to the organised structures and systems in society. In this enquiry the aim was to access how these typographic systems affected the movement and mobility of the masses.

The research has shown that design and society from around the 1900’s changed due to the industrial revolution. This revolution was one of the main contributing factors that created a shift in social and culture attitudes, which allowed the change in typographical design to progress. As well as this technological developments allowed people to move freely and in a new way.

In general the study supports the idea that a typography is defined by an area as well as being used to control and surface or space. However this does also suggest that there could be some negative consequences of standardised type, such as restricted movement and therefore lack of social progress.

The study confirms preceding findings and contributes extra evidence that suggests that modern typography design is determined via social, economical and political issues and that typography design and its usage is something that must be explored in context to develop a deeper understanding of its uses and well as the results of its use.

This investigation has only examined a small section of movement and speed. Typography was the main focus within the research however in future studies other design elements such as image could be explored. This would allow for a broader study. It would also be interesting to examine the effects of modern design with respect to the international style and its effects on national identity.


The case studies within this piece of writing have supplied an insight into the relationship that typography and meaning connect to the systematic order of modern society in relation to movement.

When looking at Paul Virillio’s theory on speed and its affect on technology and society it clear that speed is the connecting factor when looking at typography and it use within specific spaces.

Trains, cars and aeroplanes are all transport systems that move people at great speed. Along with technological advancements speed in transportation naturally increased. Virillio felt that speed “Ruins Progress”. (Virilio, 2006, p.46) However the political implications of speed were due to the feeling that there was too much progress, progress in terms of movement especially within society which.

To slow down this movement, systems and structures had to be put in place. By enforcing these standards of type, it created a sense of conformity. This meant that the typeface could change the way in which people experienced things. Conformity was a way of inflicting rules and making people behave in a certain way. From what Patrick Joyce said before the system needed a specific kind of person who lived in accordance with the system of the city. Institutions such as North Easter Railway and The Ministry of Transport used typography to create systems that would standardise and control a space as well as people.

Joyce’s thoughts on how 19th Century maps could standardise space mimics the purpose of the Transport typeface as well as the use of Gill Sans across North Easter Railway. Standardising the use of a typeface therefore standardises the use of a space.

By using a consistent typeface across Britain’s roads it physically mapped out a space and the typography was what defined the space. This is also the same for the use of Gill Sans. By using a uniform design throughout all printed material, most importantly within the timetable it allowed a mapping of time and distance.

Typography was not something that defined a space, but more so how space defined a typeface. When a typeface is created it is for a specific reason and has a job to fulfil, it has little or no social/contextual connotations, however once used in specific way for example in an era that is modern, industrial or of social progress it then gains them connotations.

This typography control of space and movement is a key within each case study. As the space changes so does the extremity of the control. The North Eastern Railway in terms of speed and movement has a relatively straightforward path. The track is fixed and goes to a specific destination with some cross sections. This means that the control system in place mostly revolves around the start and end of the journey.

When looking at the use of cars and the motorway the type of control has to change. With regards to a car the kind of travel is slightly less direct. People can be impulsive about using a car where as using a train you have to plan around departs and arrivals.

The car user is harder to control therefore by using a mapping system of road signs it allows a sense of freedom. Similar to what Joyce said before about maps, they show certain places but they also miss some out. From this you also have the aeroplane.

The control of movement in this case is slightly different to the rest. easyJet as a company are more like the liberals that Joyce refers to. They wish to move and travel where they like and when they like and this causes major issues for the elite. In easyJet’s case the control was projected on to them. The regulations of travel and movement from the government were to reduce the movement of the masses. easyJet used their standardised type to able the masses not to control them, but to suggest that there was freedom of movement.

As referred to at length in the literary review, Adolf loos was a great believer in how modern design could benefit society and that the appreciation of decoration is something of a backwards society. By society trusting timetables and road signs in modern and simplistic typefaces it would suggest that society had advanced due to them not needing to see unnecessary or stylistic decoration.

The use of Cooper Black by easyJet, even though it is modern typeface, it still feels slightly ornamental. In terms of what Loos said, it was suggest that society was backwards. However this use was intentional as this airline is focused on providing travel for all not the elite. Loos argument enforces social barriers and easyJets use of Cooper Black is an attempt to use these different classes to their advantage.

Loos ideas surrounding the rejection of ornament also link to the economic concerns explored within each of the case studies. Loos believed that ornamentation was a waste of resources therefore the use of machinery was much more appreciated due to it being cost effective. As understood, during the poor economic times there was favouritism to simplicity as well as more focus on a countries infrastructure. As the case studies suggest in an attempt to boost economy it is key to push society into using the transport system. Where there is movement consequently there is good economic growth.

It is apparent the economy determines quite significantly the process of design. With economy to consider it forces the designer to make conscious choices of materials and mediums. For example the rise of capitalism in the Victorian era meant that making profits within manufacture was important. Handcraft production meant that labour costs were high and this was not economical therefore the concept of modern machine created products was much more appealing. This is a clear example Virillio’s theory on how speed affects society in all aspects.


Typographic Background Cooper Black.

Cooper Black was a typeface created by Oswald Bruce Cooper in the 1920’s. Cooper Black was not significantly influenced by history like many of the typefaces created at this time but it was designed with the influence of current design trends such as Art Deco, Nouveau and the Machine Age style. The effects of the industrial revolution were still being fully appreciated and this could be seen in design.

Cooper Black’s popularity grew throughout the 1970’s. This was mainly in advertising as the font was seen as friendly, however many designers criticised this chunky typeface and title it the “Black Menace”.

Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds 1966.

After the typefaces overuse during the 70’s it popularity plummeted. Nonetheless in 1995 the typeface made it back into the mainstream by becoming the logotype choice for the new low budget airline easyJet.

Branding of easyJet

easyJet logo type.

The company’s choice of design differed greatly from any other rival airlines such as Ryanair and KLM (Royal Dutch airline) where branding looked sophisticated and more like traditional airlines where easyJet appeared to be undesigned. This attempt of non-design was an effort to establish easyJet to be revolutionary and part of a new era in aviation. The traditional branding of luxury and expensive travel were challenged with this friendly, bold and confident appearance.

Ryanair v easyJet

Standardisation of airline systems and regulations

There was a clear standardisation within the low cost airlines. By standardising the fleet of aircraft the company reduced the training and the qualifications that its staff needed and by standardising the service to only one class and no free items such as meals on board, this eventually improved the efficiency that the service could be run and therefore reduced the overhead company costs.

Airports and airspace had standards set in place. These regulations ensured that the flow of aircraft was consistent and safe. As well as this, the regulations noted who was flying and where. These regulations were eventually relaxed in an attempt to boost airline travel economy.

In 1997 the deregulation of restricted non-national airlines flying between airports within the same country meant that low cost airlines could travel more routes and in turn expand their market.

This deregulation caused some issues due to the concern that low cost airlines would not be as safe as their traditional counter parts. The assumption was that low cost meant that corners would be cut and they maybe cut in safety. As well as this the airspace was becoming busier therefore there was a rising concern of in air collisions.

Economic implications of Low cost carriers

The budget airlines were different to the well-established and powerful pre-deregulation airlines. These traditional airlines could not cover the rising demand for cheap European travel. This gap in the market allowed companies like easyJet in.

Low cost airlines created a new kind of market for air travel. easyJet had the aim of “for the many, not the few”. This was contrasting to how travelling by air had been seen before. Previously it was seen as luxury, usually long haul international flights that would be to exotic destinations.

The increase and popularity of low cost carriers meant that the development and expansion of civil airports increased however this did not deter the public from using large traditional airports. Large airports retained their customer base as budget airlines focused on a new kind of customer. This customer was someone who usually travelled via train, ferry or car. It also meant that experienced travellers started using budget airlines as the mass market of new airlines meant there was an increase in variety which meant that travelling became more flexible as well as competitive.

Low cost carriers meant that business trips could be easily made and therefore international trading would prosper, this was a catalytic affect due to low fares. As well as national economy, local economy grew due to the direct and indirect benefits of travel. Directly, the low cost airlines created new areas of employment such as airline cabin crew and employment in the airport shops and cafes. Indirectly low cost carriers made travel to European cities more appealing therefore many countries travel and tourism sectors benefits from the increase of visitors.

Political and social effects of mass travel

The European Unions regulations meant that those who lived in Europe could travel easily without a Visa. The relaxed restrictions meant that travel became easier. Places that were once unreachable became cheap tourist destinations and caused economic growth in these areas. The ease of travelling from civil airports meant that those with a disposable income could visit near by EU countries more often. This frequent travel meant that people could purchase secondary homes in places like France and Spain.

Reduced airfares meant competition as well as cooperation for the railway and road. European travel via train was limited to the Eurostar and the fares and travel time was what made low cost carriers more appealing. The plane had the advantage of being able to fly directly to a destination. However the train and roads still played their part in getting the public to the airport.

After many countries relaxed their airspace regulations the ideas of mass movement and international travel concerned them. The suggestion of a new taxation on air travel was used in an attempted to discourage the public from using planes so often. This was explained as a way of reducing carbon emissions. Many low cost carriers felt that this taxation would ruin the growing budget airline industry, as many customers would not be able to afford to travel. This would reverse the break down of social classes within travel as well as hinder economic growth, as movement was a key to growth.

With fewer regulations politically movement was a developing issue. Constantly observing people’s movements was harder due to the distance people could travel especially at speed. Passport control and immigration system was designed to control people’s movements. The aim was to allow people to move but the controls restricted the speed that they did as well as documented where they travelled.

Technological advancements of low cost carriers

The advancement of technology has played a huge part the success of low budget airlines success especially within computing. Companies like easyJet previously sold their tickets via telephone but due to the 90’s boom of the Internet the idea of selling tickets online without the need to speak to a travel agent meant that ticket prices could be reduced. Technological advancements in the home such as the personal computer, printers and the Internet meant that their customers could cut out the middleman. By removing the cost of printing and posting tickets the company’s overheads reduced further.

Typographic Background

Transport was a sans serif typeface created by Jock Kinneir and Margret Calvert for road signs across Britain during the late 1950’s. Before the use of Transport, Britain’s roads were littered with finger signposts, which were an assortment of shapes, sizes and colours. The inconsistencies went across the United Kingdom and caused a lot of frustration and confusion for drivers. The production of motor vehicles was growing and their rising popularity created concerns for the government surrounding road safety.

Transport typeface.

Branding of the Motorway and modernity

The number of road users grew dramatically forcing the preparation and building work for the first motorways in Britain. With technological and engineering advancements cars were becoming faster and more reliable as well as an iconic product of modernity. Due to this advancement, the environment in which these vehicles were used in had to change. The motorway was created so that large amounts of traffic could flow throughout Britain without going through and disturbing towns.

Motorway Signs on M20 At junction 5

By avoiding towns it would allow roads to remain straight ensuring the high speeds they were capable of to be maintained. These modern roads and speeds were a new experience for public. Many had only encountered travelling long distances when they travelled via train, now many could experience this luxury within the comfort and privacy of their own vehicle.

Modernity was considered the new way of seeing. It was thought that modern life should be regulated, streamlined and order should be imposed. Function and purpose was a requirement of this new perspective. Without this regulation it was thought there would be chaos, socially as well as literally. For example the frustration on roads from unordered road signs.

Technological advancements and standardisation of design within the motor industry


Road signs old and new At the junction of the A3071 and the B3306 outside St Just

With speeds of up to seventy miles per hour these fast carriages needed sign systems that differed from the finger posts. Easy and readable signs were extremely important. The encounter of the motorway was totally different to that of the A and B roads. The new speeds and modernized roads changed the way in which people drove as well as how they travelled. The time in which drivers would be able to read signs changed significantly. Previously drivers would have had much longer to read signs however now they would have to decipher information within seconds.

Initially the transport typeface was used on only motorways but eventually rolled out across all roads in the United Kingdom. Due to the rise of traffic on all roads standardizing driver’s behaviour via signage was a way to limit road accidents. The use of mechanical type reflected the ridge rules and system of conformity in which the roads were to be used. These signs enforced a set of official rules and regulations that were later formed into the Highway Code.

HIGHWAY CODES OF GOLDEN TIMES (Early History of the Highway Code)

Travelling via road and political issues of movement

Initially the motorway was built to deal with the traffics needs, however it was also an attempt to encourage economic growth. A side effect of the government investing into the countries road and rail network was that it increased the masses ease of movement. The paradox in which the government faced was that they preferred the public to remain in one place, however it is their duty to sure the economy is strong, even though it will increase movement. They confronted the fears of people moving around by controlling the laws on speed, which meant they had political control of the roads. Speed was considered a power; therefore limiting the masses pace of mobility limited the power that they potential held.

These limits were followed up by criminal offences issued and the loss of their license and even the threat of imprisonment for not adhering to the laws. This would ensure that all road users would experience the system the same way as well as deter any reckless behaviour.

Monitoring road users behaviour and movements was significantly more difficult compared to those who used the railway. As the car was effectively private it meant that those who used the car were unrestricted when choosing their destination. Therefore by using a car drivers could be a lot more spontaneous with their movements.

The social implications of speed, travel and the railway

The government wanted to introduce modernity via the transport system, both road and railway. This post war era was a perfect time for mass social and cultural change. Many people criticized the government for standardizing the signage as they believed that mimicking European design was going to destroy Britain’s historic national identity however many wished to remove the traces of war time Britain. The new signage design made a visual attempt to distinguish the two eras. Road signs were the ideal place to project the government’s ideologies as they were large, noticeable and something the public had to interact with if they wished to remain mobile.

These signs enforced the government’s concept of reassurance. Consistency and stability was needed after the distress of the war. Consistent meant safe. Consistency implied that there was a logical system and structure in place therefore it should limit the things that could go wrong. The roads signs were an obvious and consistent reminder of safety for the road user as well as reassuring Britain’s future.

Panneau routier anglais / British road sign

Economy, travel and Britain’s transport network

The standards being imposed on the public were not blatantly obvious. The new road signs were becoming part of Britain’s landscape that could unconsciously influence people’s behaviour. The aim of these signs was, to be understood but not seen, that their purpose was to give directions and understanding them would be second nature. The unornamented type choice was intentional. By limiting distractions to the driver it would was reduce road traffic accidents.

The standards were also put in place largely due to the need for consistency in trade. Standardising time and mapping space allowed capitalism to prosper. Standardisation of the road signs allowed the increasing traffic, to flow easily meaning that travel times became shorter. Transportation of consumer goods could go from manufacture to shop displays quicker and therefore sell faster.

With the growth of the car industry in Britain, it meant an increase in labour employment in factories. Cars were slowly becoming an item that each household had due to the positive economy and the consistent employment. Even though the car was becoming an everyday item, cars were marketed as a luxury product. The car was changing from an item that was created for mobility and ease of transport, to an aspirational need. Social classes may have been diminishing but clarifying your wealth status via the car you drove was increasing.

The car became a desirable object due to the way it transformed travelling. Travelling by train was becoming increasingly unpopular due to the unreliability of the railway system. In contrast to the railway a car allowed the public to take direct routes to their destinations, such as commuting to work. Using the car also removed the anxiety of being late or the worry of personal safety that the railway caused.
A road sign near Bristol, England – Transport typeface.