Britain's Colorful Burglar Alarms Are Oddly Mesmerizing

When you think of iconic graphic design, you might think of magazine ads or highway signs or even design-centric companies like American Airlines. You almost certainly don't think of burglar alarms. But maybe you should.

Victoria McDonald does. This former editor of Art World magazine became fascinated by the design of burglar alarms a few years ago, when she was photographing storefronts. Since then, some might say she's become obsessed, collecting thousands of photos of burglar alarms that she's also cataloged on her descriptively named blog, Burglar Alarm Britain. McDonald takes her hobby seriously, using the imagery to analyze socio-political themes in cities around the United Kingdom. She explains in an essay:

It’s an old-fashioned monarchy where tower-dwelling aristocrats rule, shadowy villains crouch, and a chivalrous but heavily-armed militia keeps order – the pun on ‘knight’ being an added bonus. Unexplained acronyms abound, and the occasional outbreak of modernity is of the austere or cod-futuristic variety, marginalised and strangely poignant in its faded, dated optimism.

Whether you're interested in delving into the darker corners of British society or not, you have to appreciate the simple but sometimes thought-provoking designs. And you have to admire McDonald's efforts. Over the years, she told Gizmodo, she's "had loads of hassle from security guards" who assume she's actually trying to burgle the buildings. "I usually tell them I'm a graphic designer photographing 'architectural details,' " she said. "House owners are worse. I was even chased down the street by a shrieking woman once."

The only problem with a project like this is that you inevitably walk away with one burning question: What the heck do they sound like? Probably this.


"CIA" - Emsworth, 2003

Britain's Colorful Burglar Alarms Are Oddly Mesmerizing


"Smith's Security" - Oxford, 2012

Britain's Colorful Burglar Alarms Are Oddly Mesmerizing


"Eclipse Alarms" - Stratford-Upon-Avon, 2012

Britain's Colorful Burglar Alarms Are Oddly Mesmerizing


"Brocks Security Systems" - Islington, 2013

Britain's Colorful Burglar Alarms Are Oddly Mesmerizing


"Crime Cure" - Bristol, 2013

Britain's Colorful Burglar Alarms Are Oddly Mesmerizing


"Disc Security Systems" - Glasgow, 2012

Britain's Colorful Burglar Alarms Are Oddly Mesmerizing


"Solo" - Liverpool, 2010

Britain's Colorful Burglar Alarms Are Oddly Mesmerizing


"Metropolitan Alarms" - Islington, 2008

Britain's Colorful Burglar Alarms Are Oddly Mesmerizing


"Mace" - Derby, 2010

Britain's Colorful Burglar Alarms Are Oddly Mesmerizing


"Micro" - Camden, 2012

Britain's Colorful Burglar Alarms Are Oddly Mesmerizing


"Ace Security" - Islington, 2007

Britain's Colorful Burglar Alarms Are Oddly Mesmerizing

All Images by Victoria McDonald