28 Sep 2017

A sign of the times at Humber Street Gallery

Humber Street Gallery’s new exhibition British Road Signs celebrates the 50th anniversary of the humble road sign’s design and aesthetic.

The modest road sign is invaluable to drivers and others road users, no matter how much we now depend on satnavs and smartphones in 2017.

In a celebration of these design classics that have graced our roadsides for over 50 years, next month Humber Street Gallery is hosting an exhibition curated by MADE NORTH’s Patrick Murphy. The exhibition features reinterpretations of the classic circles, triangles and squares by leading designers and artists.

These include Sir Terence Conran, of furniture design fame and founder of Habitat, Betty Jackson CBE, well-known for her fashion design and creating many Absolutely Fabulous costumes and Sir Peter Blake, co-creator of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover.

The exhibition invites visitors to appreciate the design, form and appeal, looking past the signs’ functionality. By taking the signs from the highways and placing them in the gallery and surrounding Fruit Market, isolating them from the everyday, you’re readily placed to appreciate these objects.

Patrick Murphy said:

Since childhood, I have been fascinated by these signs, as an artist and designer I think the signs occupy a unique place in British visual culture, I can’t imagine an urban or rural landscape without these beautifully realised designs being present.

This feeling is shared by many and I was delighted by the response of designers and artists to the project. The project enabled me to work with Margaret and discover more about the personal history of the project.

Originally designed by Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinnear, their efficient system of road signs come in a limited number of shapes with a minimal colour palette. Broadly speaking, circles give instructions, triangles warn and rectangles inform. The designers also created two new typefaces for their project; Transport and Motorway, that are used to this day.

The new signs created for the exhibition see designers taking those elements and using them in new, creative ways. David Sinclair from Humber Street Gallery said: “There are certainly some drivers on the roads today who could do with brushing up on their highway code. While we can’t promise that you’ll be ready to sit your theory test after visiting the exhibition, it will provide an opportunity to learn more about the history and the components that make up our road signage.

David continued: “The reimagined road signs reflect some of the passions and personalities of the designers and artists who have created them. From Sir Terrance Conran’s gory sign warning cyclists of the dangers of sharing the roads with trucks through to the political ‘No Right Turn’ by FUEL and the cheeky directions sign by Mark Bonner.

The exhibition opens on 2 October in Gallery 1 at Humber Street Gallery and extends into the surrounding streets. Take a walk and see if you can identify all 80 signs.

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