Brain Pickings

Gorgeous Vintage British Road Safety Ads, 1939-1946

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“Lookout in the blackout — think before you cross the road.”

Vintage visual communication has a special kind of mesmerism — from travel posters to political infographics to science ads. But beautifully designed vintage PSAs and public-interest propaganda stand as a particularly striking echelon of design as a mind-mover, and perhaps a bittersweet testament to the downhill spiral of similarly intentioned modern-day creative efforts. On the heels of this 1969 bike safety manual come a series of stunning vintage road safety from the UK National Archives.

'Shine your torch downwards when crossing the road' (1939-1946)

Artist: Tom Gentleman

Pastel and gouache on paper. Graphite lines, numbers and inscriptions.

'Drivers; make sure you can always pull up within the range of your headlights' (1939-1946)

Artist: Tom Gentleman

Pastel and gouache on paper. Graphite lines, numbers and inscriptions.

'Cyclists; make sure you can be seen in the black-out' (1939-1946)

Artist: Tom Gentleman

Pastel and gouache on paper. Graphite lines, numbers and inscriptions.

Female and male figures walking at night (1939-1946)

Artist: Tom Gentleman

Pastel and gouache on paper. Graphite lines, numbers and inscriptions.

'Take no chances. Keep death off the road' (1939-1946)

Artist: Ashley

'Lookout in the blackout. Think before you cross the road' (1939-1946)

Artist: Pat Keely

Gouache appears to have been applied to thick paper stuck to a board support. Ink has possibly been used for the technique of air-brushing.

'Look out in the blackout. Until your eyes get used to the darkness take it easy' (1939-1946)

Artist: Pat Keely

Gouache appears to have been applied to thick paper stuck to a board support. Ink has possibly been used for the technique of air-brushing.

'Cross only at the lights' (1939-1946)

Artist: Pat Keely

Gouache appears to have been applied to thick paper stuck to a board support. Ink has possibly been used for the technique of air-brushing. There is a graphite mark on the board.

'Lookout in the blackout - think before you cross the road' (1939-1946)

Artist: Pat Keely

Gouache appears to have been applied to thick paper stuck to a board support. Ink has possibly been used for the technique of air-brushing. There is a graphite mark on the board.

'Walk left of the pavement' (1939-1946)

Artist: Pat Keely

Gouache appears to have been applied to thick paper stuck to a board support. Ink has possibly been used for the technique of air-brushing.

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