Amnesty International logo design

The designer was the late Diana Redhouse, who died in October 2007, aged 84. During the second world war, Diana had been conscripted to work in the UK Government’s drawing office. She trained at Central St Martins College of Art and Design in London before working as a graphic designer, and was inspired to found the Hampstead branch of Amnesty after reading an article by the charity’s founder, Peter Benenson.

In 1963, the Amnesty founder wrote to Diana to say that her design, a candle in barbed wire, had been chosen for Amnesty’s first ever Christmas card because of its simplicity and the effectiveness of its symbolism.

Amnesty International candle

The logo combines two recognisable images inspired by the Chinese proverb, “Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”

The barbed wire represents “the darkness” (hopelessness) of people put in jail where they think nobody remembers they are there. They are imprisoned for unfair reasons, most likely because they said or did something that seemingly threatened the power and authority of the Government to control the actions and thoughts of its citizens. They are political prisoners.

The candle represents Amnesty Internationalʼs commitment to remember that political prisoners are being held all over the world and AIʼs commitment to bring the prisoners hope for their fair treatment and eventual release.

The logo was refined in 2000 by Simon Endres, formerly of Kirshenbaum Bond, and now half of Pro-Am, Inc in New York.

Amnesty International website design

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June 15, 2008

Comments

Designing a logo for an international organisation would have challenges in terms of choosing symbols with true global recognition and appeal, something the AI logo achieves in a very elegant and timeless way.

Back in college, 1990 there bouts, a friend of mine wanted to start an Amnesty International club on campus and he asked me to design the logo for it. I came up with three sketches based on his ideas (I didn’t know what Amnesty International was at the time): barbed wire around an African woman’s face, barbed wire around the dove of peace and barbed wire around a candle. I tried to make the barbed wire make an “A” in all three sketches. I figured you could interpret an “I” as the woman’s profile, in the wire around the dove and the candle itself. The ideas never went beyond the sketches. I liked the first sketch the best and still have it somewhere in my college art file (not for the logo design but for the fine art aspect of it). I may have the other sketches, too, they were all in the same notebook; I just remember the first sketch the best because the profile came out so well and the barbed wire wove perfectly from her hair. Damn, I’m going to have to track those sketches down now.

I wonder where he is now and if he looks at this logo and goes, “If only!”. I would guess everyone has had this thought at one time or other.

Course I can’t help but look at this design and think of Brian all those years ago and the passionate way he described his design ideas to me at the time.

It was a good design idea then and it is a good design idea now.

Trish

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