Red Cross logo

red cross logo

Design by Henri Dunant, 1863.

The emblem of a red cross with arms of equal length on a white background is the visible sign of protection under the 1949 Geneva Conventions. As such, it is the emblem of the armed forces’ medical services.

red cross flag

In order to avoid ‘semantic noise’, the International Red Cross uses the Red Crescent name and trademark in some Arab World countries—with a predominantly Muslim population.

Origin of the emblems

The Red Cross emblem is an inversion of the Swiss flag, which shows a white cross on a red background. This recognises the historic connection between Switzerland and the original Geneva Convention of 1864.

But while the Red Cross emblem has no intentional religious meaning, the symbol reminded soldiers from the Ottoman Empire (modern-day Turkey) of the crusaders of the Middle Ages and so in 1876 they began using a Red Crescent instead.

Johnson & Johnson sue Red Cross over logo

In 2007, Johnson & Johnson sued the Red Cross over their logo.

“Johnson & Johnson began using the red cross design as a trademark in 1887—some years after the creation of the American Red Cross but before it received its congressional charter in 1900. The lawsuit contends that the charter did not empower the Red Cross to engage in commercial activities competing with a private business.”

Further reading:

Logo Design Love, the book

13 thoughts on “Red Cross logo

  1. Hi Daniel, Lauren,

    Glad you liked the post. There’s also a third emblem used by the Red Cross:

    An additional protective emblem – the red crystal – was established in 2005. It has equal status and meaning to the red cross and red crescent emblems.

  2. David,

    I heard about this when it happened. It’s utterly silly. Normally I’d think yeah, protect it, but they’ve lived side-by-side for a very long time. Johnson & Johnson has made themselves sound like petty bullies on this.



  3. I like this post. I remember when I was the president of the Red Crescent Society (similar like Red Cross) when I was 12 years old.

    Regarding the crescent as symbol of Islam (during Ottoman Empire), maybe you would like to check out my Islamic Arts Club blog about it.

    Moon and star – A symbol of Islam?

    I hope you don’t mind I’m posting this link.

    Cheers David

  4. Kelly,

    That’s what I thought when I first heard the headline, what with people associating the Red Cross with non-profit activities. I think it all came about when they started actually selling good, which changes things, but I don’t know too much about it.


    I don’t mind you posting a link, not at all. I visited your ISAC blog, and you might want to fix the ‘about us’ link in the footer. There’s a missing slash which breaks it.

  5. I wonder what the red color used in red cross logo really means. Can anybody tell me that? Would be great.

  6. So nothing about the protection of the emblem under the Geneva Convention, and the rules regarding its use? This is perhaps the most important fact, and one people fail to recognise or respect.

  7. The symbol of the Red Cross, which represents mercy and help to persons in need, is usually thought to have originated in recent times, but it was actually first used by St. Camillus when he founded the order of ministers of the sick. Source: Saints for the Sick.

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