With the holidays coming up, I’m sure you’ve been seeing a lot of peace symbols—whether on holiday cards, posters or just signage in general. Easily recognizable, it’s become the international symbol of world peace. Ever wonder why the iconic symbol looks like it does, and who created it?
In brief, the peace symbol was created in 1958 (not that long ago) by Gerald Holtom for the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which was having its first major march in England. It was during the time that the anti-nuclear movement was beginning to pick up steam. Being an artist and designer, Holtom knew the symbol needed to be bold and simple to print or draw on a lot of different materials and signs. Essentially the perfect symbol.
To create the design, Holsom explained that he used the visual language of semaphores—an old method of signaling by means of flags or lights (see alphabet below). He used the shape of the figures holding the flags as a basis for the direction of the lines within the symbol.
By overlaying two semaphore figures (see below) he was able to recreate a two-letter code within the design, as well as a unique abstract symbol. The downward lines on either side represent the semaphore signal for the letter N, and the vertical line in the center of the peace sign represents the semaphore signal for the letter D. Together N and D stood for “Nuclear Disarmament.” Such a clever way to bake meaning into a simple design!
Senior Art Director