Source: UN’s Washington Office (UNIC)
A little update (Oct. 2011): since this posting was published in July 2008, it has become the most popular of the entire blog. A lot of people are interested in the history of the UN logo… So much so that we decided to publish a booklet on the emblem of the United Nations and its flag. The book is now available on Amazon.com and it’s soon going to be available on the iBookstore and Nook. Click here for more.
Donald McLaughlin… a Hero of the United Nations…
Donal McLaughlin, designer of the UN logo, was honored by his hometown of Garrett Park, Maryland on his 101th birthday on Saturday, July 26 with an honorary renaming of his street. The street sign includes the UN logo that he designed in 1945. Will Davis, director of the UN’s Washington office, provided congratulatory remarks at the event.
The following article on McLaughlin’s Centennial first appeared on UNA-USA’s website in July 2007:
Donal McLaughlin, like any architect, said his wish was to see his designs come to life in brick and stone. Instead, the hallmark of McLaughlin’s distinguished career can fit on a button one and one-sixteenth inches in diameter.
McLaughlin, who celebrated his 100th birthday on July 26, designed the lapel pin for the United Nations Conference on International Organization held in San Francisco in 1945. At the time, he had no idea his creation would be a symbol of peace and global cooperation throughout the world.
His design, which is stamped on the UN Charter signed June 26, 1945, remains the emblem of the UN today and one of the most recognizable symbols throughout the world.
McLaughlin, who was working at the State Departments’s Office of Strategic Services (OSS) at the time of the conference, said the assignment came to him more by the luck of the draw.
“The previous three years during the war, I was employed by “Wild Bill” Donavan in the OSS as chief of graphics in that division,” McLaughlin explained. “The war came to an end and the State Department was planning a meeting of United Nations in San Francisco and they asked my boss if they could employ our presentation division to help out there … among the things they needed was an identifying pin for all the delegates.”
After McLaughlin and his team of artists drafted about nine different designs, a final illustration was chosen, although not without the breaking of some basic architectural rules, he said.
“The hardest part of the project was fitting the design and copy onto the small, circular pin that was one and one-sixteenth inches in diameter,” McLaughlin said. “I did my thesis at Yale involving circular design and when I finished that I swore I’d never do another circular design because everything has to radiate from one center point.”
To fix this problem, he drew the globe as an azimuthally equidistant projection so that all the countries of the world could fit into the circle. Then, McLaughlin moved the projection off-center – this final trick made everything fit.
The lapel pin and accompanying Charter displayed a globe projected in a way that showed all the continents surrounded by olive branches to represent peace. The outer edge of the circle had the conference’s name, location and date.
“We had been using maps all throughout the war and we picked up on that projection,” McLaughlin said. “The idea that we had was to represent one world through this projection.”
A year later, the design was changed slightly when voted on by the General Assembly, he added. “The map was turned a quarter to the left so the east and west were in balance,” whereas the logo on the Charter had North America on the centerline and the rest of the world upside down.
The refined design became the official symbol of the United Nations.
To read the article in its entirety, please click here.
To visit UNIC’s website, follow this link.