A history of women in graphics in Britain

Information about the designers in the A+ show at Central Saint Martins, 2016, names M to N

Margaret Calkin James (1895 – 1985) studied at the Central School from 1913 to 1915, winning a scholarship in her final year to continue her studies at Westminster College. A graphic designer, textile printer, calligrapher and artist, Margaret was a prolific creative force during the first and second world wars. Examples of her work are held in the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Central School Museum and Study Collection. A book of Margaret's work, 'At the Sign of the Rainbow' was published in 1996. The Royal Tournament poster in the A+ exhibition was commissioned by London Underground from the Central School, and uses an orderly repeated pattern technique which was a signature style of Margaret's work, also seen in her textile prints.

Margaret Calvert OBE (b. 1936)

Margaret attended a Central School evening class in 1957 to 'brush up on my typography'*, while working with graphic designer Jock Kinneir assisting on the signage for the newly built Gatwick Airport. 

In 1957, Kinneir and Calvert began work on the system of signs for Britain's new motorways, which resulted in a new typeface designed to be read at speed – Transport – which is still in use on British road signs today. The commission to design the signs for all of Britain's roads followed in the early 1960s, and in 1964 Kinneir and Calvert became business partners and named their consultancy Kinneir Calvert & Associates.  Margaret is also well known for her typeface 'Calvert' (so-called by Monotype who issued it in 1981 – 'I would never have chosen that name'*) which had been designed for the signage on the Tyne & Wear Metro in Newcastle.

From 1966, Margaret combined graphic design practice with teaching at the Royal College of Art, and was appointed Head of the Graphic Design Department in the late 1980s. Margaret continues to practice, working in recent years as typographic consultant for the design of the typeface used on the gov.uk website, winner of the Design Museum's Design of the Year competition in 2013. Margaret recently spoke about her work at a D&AD President's Lecture, and at the 2016 Design Indaba conference. In the Queen's Birthday honours list of 2016, Margaret received an OBE for services to typography and road safety.

The 'Men At Work' sign in the A+ show was designed by Kinneir Calvert, with the symbol drawn by Margaret, in 1965. Margaret has written about her experiences designing road signs and this can be read on the '50th Anniversary of the British Road Sign' project website here: http://www.britishroadsignproject.co.uk/history/.

'Men At Work' road sign designed by Kinneir Calvert (1965). Symbol drawn by Margaret Calvert, on display at the A+ exhibition at Central Saint Martins in 2016

'Men At Work' road sign designed by Kinneir Calvert (1965). Symbol drawn by Margaret Calvert, on display at the A+ exhibition at Central Saint Martins in 2016

* Quotes taken from an interview with Margaret Calvert in "Drip-dry shirts: the evolution of the graphic designer" by Lucienne Roberts, AVA Publishing, 2005.


May Safwat  (b. 1985) graduated from BA Graphic Design at CSM in 2008, before gaining an MA in Spatial Performance and Design at the Architectural Association in 2011. May has won a Kodak Commercial Award First Prize in cinematography and sound design.

May worked at MTV developing concepts for TV shows and at Leo Burnett as a creative. In 2014, she founded a design and film studio with Diego Ulrich. May directed and edited an online series for the Architectural Association documenting the university (with Henrietta Williams). She directed a road safety awareness campaign for the U.A.E.

May is an Associate Lecturer at CSM in the graphic design department, and also teaches the first year students film at the Architectural Association.

The Boston Bench was designed in collaboration with Diego. Referring to the growth of the city due to land reclamation, one end of the bench is in the shape of the original Boston, the other end is the shape it became after the land was reclaimed from the water.

Miho Aishima (b. 1974) graduated from BA Graphics at CSM in 2005. After working at johnson banks, CDT Design and Macmillan Publishers, Miho set up her own agency, Aishima brand and design studio. The Aishima studio works collaboratively with clients to create ideas-led visual identities, and delivers branding clinics and workshops in partnership with with the King's Cross Impact Hub. Projects Miho has worked on have appeared in Eye Magazine and received many D&AD awards. For the A+ exhibition, Miho has created the #CelebrateWomen poster and Twitter project. Miho has initiated a Twitter event which asks people to tweet the names and work of female graphic designers who have inspired them. Miho will add the names to a poster, which will be redesigned, reprinted and rehung each week of the exhibition to accommodate the growing collection of inspiring female graphic designers. Miho has written a piece on female logo designers for Logo Geek to tie in with the A+ show.

Morag Myerscough (b 1963)

Morag studied at Saint Martins from 1982 to 1985, before going on to the RCA. In 1993 she founded her own design studio after working in design agencies, and has won many awards and much recognition for her work. Recent examples include being part of the design team awarded architecture's Stirling Prize, and inclusion in Debrett's 'People of Today' list of the most influential 500 people in the UK. A monograph of Morag's work is due for publication in 2016 by Unit Editions, and her work is included in the V&A permanent collection of design.

Morag Myerscough's anniversary sign for the '50 Years of the British Road Sign' project, displayed in the A+ exhibition at Central Saint Martins in 2016

Morag Myerscough's anniversary sign for the '50 Years of the British Road Sign' project, displayed in the A+ exhibition at Central Saint Martins in 2016

Morag Mysercough, letter A designed for Creative Review cover (2013) displayed in the A+ exhibition at Central Saint Martins in 2016

Morag Mysercough, letter A designed for Creative Review cover (2013) displayed in the A+ exhibition at Central Saint Martins in 2016

The giant letter A shown in the A+ exhibition was made for the cover of the Creative Review Annual 2013, and was hand-painted by Morag. Also included in the exhibition is Morag's hand-painted road sign, from the '50 Years of the British Road Sign' installation at the Design Museum, curated by Made North.


Nicolette Gray  (1911 – 1997) taught at the Central School between 1964 and 1980s, and was co-curator of the Central Lettering Record with fellow tutor Nick Biddulph. Highlights of her earlier career included establishing herself as a scholar of post classical inscriptions, working as an art critic, organising the first exhibition of abstract art in Britain, writing articles and books (for example seminal books 'Nineteenth century ornamented typefaces and title pages' in 1938  and 'Lettering on buildings' in 1960), and designing lettering for buildings. In 1979, she became the first female member of the Double Crown Club society of printers, publishers, book designers and illustrators. 

Nicolete's drawing for one of her lettering designs (c.1950s), a lunette in Westminster Cathedral, is shown in the A+ exhibition. 


Nina Chakrabarti (b.1970) was born in Calcutta, moved to London as a teenager, and graduated from CSM in 1994 before studying at the RCA. Her work has graced menus in Somerset House,  a book cover for Penguin, packaging for Cow Shed cosmetics, and posters for Melrose and Morgan. Nina has written and illustrated her own books 'My Wonderful World of Fashion' (shown in the A+ exhibition) and 'My Wonderful World of Shoes'.