D&AD President’s Lectures: Margaret Calvert

It was the hottest day of the year. Unfortunately I couldn’t help but feel very drowsy in Shoreditch Town Hall was jam packed with what felt like 1000 people, stocking up on drinks and grabbing the nearest seat you could find, we all sat eagerly awaiting to hear the words of the iconic Margaret Calvert.

According to Calvert the difference between work and play are quite obvious. Work is what you get paid to do. Play is what you’re not paid for. Though I had never given much thought about how Margaret got into the design world I was surprised to find out it was through illustration at the Chelsea College of Art. I think I had just assumed she had studied graphic design, as her work is so mathematical, refined and ‘gridded’.

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Its odd to think that the road signs Margaret Calvert designed, over half a century ago, are all over London and yet not many know that they are her work. Alongside Jack Kinneir, Calvert made a name for herself by developing signage. She was keen to remind us that there were no computers back then. Meaning all the signs; letters, lines and shapes were all painted by hand. At this point she pointed out that someone forgot to cut out the oval shapes with in the zero’s on a Crowland sign. Though this was very subtle, once pointed out, it was hard not to notice. To this she said she blamed her assistant, to which everyone laughed.

Calvert then retired in 2001 but continues to design for play and explored the possibility of teaching as “Education is the place to be”. In 2010, she collaborated with Marion Deuchars (an ilustrator) for It’s Nice That, Calvert explained they had very different working processes as she couldn’t seem to experiment until the thoughts were in her head. She is also determined not to experiment with her ‘play’ work as she believes all rules can be broken when not doing anything serious.

Over all this lecture was enjoyable. Her enthusiasm was clear through out the talk and she had a great sense of humour. I would say that the venue was a little disappointing, as there was issues with her microphone that made it sightly difficult to make out what she was saying at points. The heat did not help (obviously no ones fault for this). I also think that too many tickets were sold for this event as it was very uncomfortable. However, it was all worth it, as Margaret Calvert doesn’t do very many talks and so I felt fortunate to be able to go to this lecture.

 

 

 

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