Presentation details
From the Motor Car Act to motorways

British road signs from 1903–58

Phil Baines

Saturday 15 September | 11:30 – 12:00
Location: Sallis Benney Theatre

Presentation | Theme: Landscapes | Duration: 30 minutes

Very soon after the appearance of motorised transport on the roads, local authorities and the Police authorities recognised that the milestones of the Turnpike era were insufficiently clear to give directions to traffic moving at more than a horse's pace.

From the Motor Car Act of 1903 onwards there were a succession of measures to make the signing of road clear and consistent – most significantly in 1921, 1933 and 1944 – and these took the form of ‘enabling legislation’ rather than full Acts of Parliament.

The appearance of these signs was not the work of people we would now term ‘designers’ but the result of collaboration between local and national authorities; motoring (and cycling) organisations and sign manufacturers. Using material from the National Archives at Kew and the Department of Transport’s own library, the presentation will explain the policy behind these successive developments and their relationship to continental practice; show examples of the original reports and examples of some of the examples which still survive, both on the road and in private collections.

Speaker details

Phil Baines Professor of Typography: UAL:Central Saint Martins | Designer & writer Phil Baines studio / Central Saint Martins | UK

Phil Baines is a freelance designer, writer, and Professor of Typography at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London. Phil has worked as a freelance graphic designer for a variety of arts organisations and publishers since leaving the RCA in 1987.

He has worked together with Catherine Dixon on book designs for Phaidon Press; Laurence King; and for the award-winning Penguin Books Great Ideas series. They are frequent contributors to Eye; other writing includes the website publiclettering.org.uk and the book Signs: lettering in the environment (Laurence King 2003).

He has written two other books: Type & typography (with Andrew Haslam, 2nd edition, Laurence King 2005); and Penguin by design: a cover story 1935–2005 (Penguin 2005).

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