Often described as the ‘peace symbol' and widely recognised today, it began as a logo for a single-issue campaign against nuclear proliferation and subsequently came to symbolise a wider pacifist stance. The symbol continues to be used as shorthand for anti-war sentiment or even hippy culture, and is still seen regularly at rallies and protests.
Designed by Gerald Holtom for the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). The CND was found in 1957 at the height of the Cold War during a period of widespread public fear about potential nuclear conflict and the impact of the international arms race. The first public appearance of the symbol is believed to have been in 1958 at the first London to Aldermaston anti-nuclear march.1
Holtom claimed inspiration came from the stance of the central figure in Francisco Goya's The Third of May 1808, where the figure’s hands are outstretched in supplication or defiance in front of a firing squad.2 Graphically, the symbol is composed of an imposition of the letters 'N' (for 'nuclear') and 'D' (for 'disarmament') on a circle representing earth, inspired by the position of the flags in the Semaphore system.3
Variations of the original design include that of Christian CND, with the central stroke extended upwards to form the upright of a cross, and regionally located CND groups such as CND Cymru and CND Scotland who have sometimes incorporated national symbols. It is also interesting to note the graphic similarity between the symbol and that of Extinction Rebellion.