The Extinction Rebellion (XR) logo has become one of the most recognisable protest symbols of recent times. It forms part of an aesthetically literate and coherent 'protest brand' that incorporates typography, colour, and image style. In addition, it is difficult to think of a contemporary protest campaign that has utilised the consumer-capitalist techniques of identity design in such a savvy and successful way.1
The symbol was designed in 2011 by an artist known as Goldfrog ESP who initially offered it to a number of environmental groups but received little response. Subsequently, the symbol began attracting attention through a Twitter account labeled ‘Extinction Symbol’ and could be seen on posters and tiles around East London. In 2018, XR contacted the artist and adopted the symbol as the focal point of their campaign.2
According to the artist, the inspiration for the mark was partially drawn from cave art, runes, and alchemist symbols.2 Symbolically, the circle represents the earth while the central hourglass shape warns that time is running out. Graphically, the symbol is suggestive of both the anarchist circle-a and CND symbol and similarly easy to replicate in a few quick strokes.
As the symbol is freely available for non-commercial use, it is seen on a range of applications — screen-prints, t-shirts, ceramics, etc. — and has been incorporated by artists, including Banksy and Carrie Reichardt.3 It is also common to see it in conjunction with additional elements such as the XR wordmark or additional graphics. Yet, despite its widespread use there has been little deviation from the graphic form of the original.