The famous peace symbol has been associated with the hippie culture and the flower child movement of the 70s. However, like the sky and the sea, this symbol, too, has a conception story and we bet that you might not have heard about it. Quite ironically, this symbol is the result of utter despair prevalent during World War II.
In the 1950s, the peace sign was conceptualized as the logo for the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. It is a combination of “N” and “D”, the semaphore signals for nuclear disarmament. Semaphore are visual signals given from a distance. In these signals, N is formed by holding two flags in an inverted “V”, and the “D” is formed by holding one flag pointed upright and another down below.
Gerald Holtom is the designer of the symbol. It was later adapted to make ceramic lapel badges. Holtom explained how he conceived the idea to Peace News,
I was in despair. Deep despair. I drew myself: the representative of an individual in despair, with hands palm outstretched outwards and downwards in the manner of Goya’s peasant before the firing squad. I formalised the drawing into a line and put a circle round it.
However, as the symbol came out of disappointment and despair, Holtom regretted it immediately for its somber existence. He realized that the symbol should not imply despair as peace is something to be celebrated. Wearing the peace sign automatically meant allegiance to anti-nuclear ideologies.
Though attempts were made to beguile the meaning of the sign by propagating the idea that it is the devil’s sign, the symbol is still celebrated as the most powerful image designed for a secular cause.