Despite a reduction in their numbers in recent years, the traditional British red telephone kiosk can still be seen in many places throughout the UK, and in current or former British colonies around the world. The colour red was chosen to make them easy to spot.
From 1926 onwards, the fascias of the kiosks were emblazoned with a prominent crown, representing the British government. The red phone box is often seen as a British cultural icon throughout the world. In 2006 the K2 telephone box was voted one of Britain's top 10 design icons, which included the Mini, Supermarine Spitfire, London tube map, World Wide Web, Concorde and the AEC Routemaster bus. Although production of the traditional boxes ended with the advent of the KX series in 1985, many still stand in Britain.
The paint colour used most widely today is known as "currant red" and is defined by a British Standard, BS381C-Red539. This slightly brighter red was introduced with the K8 model in 1968, but went on to be used across the estate on previous models too. Hence, for complete historical accuracy, any kiosks in pre-1968 settings should really be painted in the previous, and slightly darker, shade BS381C-Red538.
The first standard public telephone kiosk introduced by the United Kingdom Post Office was produced in concrete in 1920 and was designated K1 (Kiosk No.1). This design was not of the same family as the familiar red telephone boxes. As of 2017, there are six K1 boxes in existence, all of which have been listed at Grade II by Historic England, with two still located on British streets. The first is situated in Trinity Market in Kingston-upon-Hull, and the other in Bembridge High Street, Isle of Wight.
The red telephone box was the result of a competition in 1924 to design a kiosk that would be acceptable to the London Metropolitan Boroughs which had hitherto resisted the Post Office's effort to erect K1 kiosks on their streets.