The symbol grew out of the Danish anti-nuclear movement and it was commonly seen at demonstrations during the 1970s and 1980s, particularly as a button badge. It is estimated that over 36 million 'Smiling Sun' branded items were produced between 1975 and 1986.1 Its popularity has inspired many variations including some promoting issues not related to nuclear energy and even a pro-nuclear energy counter-symbol.
Designed by Danish activist, Anne Lund, in 1975 and adopted by the Danish Organization for Information on Nuclear Power (OOA). It was first seen at a May Day festival in Aarhaus of the same year, and the subsequent popularity of the logo has led it to being translated into more than 40 other national and regional languages.2
For an activist or political symbol of the 1970s, it is somewhat unique in that there is deliberate humour evident and it was intentionally designed to be 'polite' and appeal to the power of dialogue.3 Perhaps it is this approach and the positive symbolism of the sun, particularly in Northern Europe, that has contributed to its success and longevity.
Many variations exist, including ones where the sun is set on a green background, which explicitly promotes the use of renewable energy. The popularity of the symbol has also inspired a pro-nuclear energy counter-version, which replaces the sun with a smiling atom, although this version lacks the graphic coherence of the original.