Shopping for Inspiration

Stylish moms and bookish kids have long converged on their mutual admiration for the tomes of Maira Kalman, an illustrator, artist, designer, author and New York Times blogger who’s probably best known for the internationally beloved children’s books she’s penned since 1985.

I was already a fan of Kalman for transforming the grammarian’s Bible, Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style, in 2005 with her lovely illustrations. Then in 2007 with the blog-turned-book, The Principles of Uncertainty (a cult classic for the indie aesthete), she brilliantly illustrated a year in her life, focusing each day on a familiar image and accompanying it with inspirational commentary. One of the most memorable of these examples is her affectionate rendering of the now-infamous Keep Calm and Carry On poster.

For a brief history lesson: 800,000 of these positive propaganda posters were printed to boost morale and encourage loyalty to the crown during World War II if the Nazis did invade Britain, as expected. However, they were never posted as had been the plan in 1939. In 2000 a copy of the poster was rediscovered in Northumberland, England, and reproductions””as well as parody pieces””have made the rounds on the design circuit for the past 10 years. In any event, it’s nice that the sentiment still rings true. I think there’s something really special about the design’s clean graphics but traditional imagery and historically rooted message.

Today, these are so ubiquitous in contemporary design schemes that the logo has found its way onto a few unexpected home decor items, like these rugs at Anthropologie and CB2. For those who want the real deal, a number of Etsy shops, like Print Spot, carry vintage-look prints of the original posters, and sfgirlbybay is perhaps the most prolific source for silk-screened archival prints in a variety of colors.

Google has otherwise led me to the Keep Calm Gallery online for even more graphic goodies. If you like the typographically clean style and inspirational message of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters, but desire a more original motif, you’re bound to love the Keep Calm Gallery as much as me. Here are a few of my picks:

You can discover the rest at