The ubiquitous icon of the Aquarian age and one of the most widely known symbols in the world.
In Britain it is recognised as standing for nuclear disarmament – and in particular as the logo of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).
In the United States and much of the rest of the world it is known more broadly as the peace symbol.
It was designed in 1958 by Gerald Holtom, a professional designer and artist and a graduate of the Royal College of Arts.
He showed his preliminary sketches to a small group of people in the Peace News office in North London and to the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War, one of several smaller organisations that came together to set up CND.
A masterpiece of design, it looked equally good on a letterhead and spray painted on a wall. Anyone could draw it and by 1970 everyone knew what it stood for. Within the eternal circle, it combined a stylised version of the semaphore letters C, N and D.
There have been claims that the symbol has older, occult or anti-Christian associations. In South Africa, under the apartheid regime, there was an official attempt to ban it. Various far-right and fundamentalist American groups have also spread the idea of Satanic associations or condemned it as a Communist sign.
However the origins and the ideas behind the symbol have been clearly described, both in letters and in interviews, by Gerald Holtom. His original, first sketches are now on display as part of the a collection in Bradford, England
Even 50+ years later it is still a potent symbol, though more for partying than for peace these days.
A famous right-wing American bumper sticker of the early 70s compared its shape to a bird’s foot and read “Footprint of the great American chicken”.
Although specifically designed for the anti-nuclear movement, the peace sign has quite deliberately never been copyrighted. No one has to pay or to seek permission before they use it. A symbol of freedom, it is free for all.