Just the other day I was writing up some research I’ve been doing regarding symbolic gestures and symbols of war and peace. Then The New York Times published “A Language Changed,” about the evolution of sign language in the digital age. This reminded me of the sign language I was taught as a preteen at Summer military school (don’t ask) during war games where we use only our hands to communicate. That brought me around to memories of Winston Churchill and his famous two-finger “V for Victory” sign, which actually began not with Churchill but in occupied Belgium and France, where it was also used as anti-Nazi graffiti. Churchill had learned that making the sign with his palm facing inwards meant “up yours.” He liked that.
There are many signs with multiple meanings, and I will get around to writing about more of them sooner or later (for now, check your emojis).
But back to peace. The very day I was working on this story, I received an email from Uruguay designer Amijai Benderski about his design for world peace symbol that is currently part of the “Designing Peace” exhibition on view at the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York through Sept. 4, 2023. I asked him to send along some sketches and jot down a few notes about his design concept, which follows . . . .
Benderski: The symbols associated with peace share an unlucky birth that prevents their use by authorities. The “V” of victory is of war origin, the dove is religious and the symbol of peace is associated with the hippie movement of the ’60s.
It was necessary to design a new symbol that can be used without any regrets by any authority. After realizing the need for an image that represents the highest ideal of happiness and freedom, the exploration to achieve it began.
It was understood that a completely new symbol wasn’t the appropriate approach. From my position I’m not able to implement a new image that can reach and be comprehended by everyone. For this reason a redesign was proposed. The most widely recognized symbol of peace was found with the symbol of planet earth. In this way, the message is redirected to say world peace.
After recognizing the path, the challenge arises on how to juxtapose these two images. The search, of more than two years, reaches its destination thanks to my unconsciousness. I woke up energetically from having solved this graphic problem. When I opened my eyes, I grabbed my pen and on the first paper I found I drew the solution. The three sketches made on a trouser label show the conclusion obtained—the symbol of planet earth and of peace must join by the central vertical line that they both share. The only thing that remained to be resolved was the relationship of proportions between the two symbols.
It was understood that the symbol should be used with a variety of colors to convey the diversity of the concept, the highest ideal of fertility, world peace. For this reason, a color palette that responds to the rainbow was selected to be used.
Having solved the symbol, I asked myself what was the most effective way to introduce it to society. The answer: Others should use it.
[So] an international poster exhibition was organized in which 33 visual artists from 15 different countries expressed their vision (above and below).