International Red Cross
Designed by Henri Dunant, 1863

Red Cross logo design

Designed by Hans Schneider, circa 1900

Bayer logo design

Rehabilitation Hospital Corporation of America
Designed by John Langdon

Rehabilitation Hospital logo design

Designer unknown

Swiss Air logo design

Australian Wildlife Hospital
Designed by Coast Design, 2005

Australian Wildlife Hospital logo design

Designed by Beveridge Seay, Inc.

Lifelink logo design

Film Aid International
Designed by Eric Baker Design Associates

Film Aid logo design

Swiss National Exhibition Expo, Lausanne 1964
Designed by Armin Hofmann, 1964

Swiss Expo logo design 1964 Armin Hofmann

Crossroads Films
Designed by Pentagram

Crossroads Films logo design

Hermann Hospital
Designed by Pentagram

Hermann Hospital logo design

Rhode Island Department of Health
Designed by Malcolm Grear Designers

Rhode Island Department of Health logo design

New Horizon
Designed by Gardner Design

New Horizon logo

Medical City
Designed by Richard Brock Miller Mitchell & Associates

Medical City logo

Legacy Hospital Partners, Inc.
Designed by Prejean Creative

Legacy Hospital Partners logo

Espresso Rescue
Designed by Mindspike Design

Espresso Rescue logo

Christian cross

Christian cross

More crosses

The Wikipedia page for “cross” shows many other examples, such as the skull and crossbones, Maltese cross, and flag of Denmark etc.

When countries use both flags and logos, the distinction can easily blur. For instance, Italy’s tourism market is promoted using Landor’s happy pickle, but surely the flag would be more effective (flags and copyright — I’d like to know more about that).

Green Cross Code

Those of you in the UK will remember the Green Cross Code Man. If you’re like me, however, you won’t know that the actor who played him was none other than David Prowse MBE of Darth Vader fame.

Just thought I’d throw that out there.


uh… does the christian cross really qualify as a logo? who’s the agency/designer on that one?

I think the Rehabilitation Hospital one — a cross opening up into a set of stairs — is very clever.

I’m curious whether, with secularization and the decreasing identification between Christianity and health care / charity, if the use of crosses in health care logos is on the downswing, or whether the symbol has taken on an additional meaning through long association.


No plans for a specifically symbol-based publication, but I think you’ll appreciate the Logo Design Love book I’m working on.


I was curious to see what response it got.


John Langdon did a great job on that. I completely agree. You ask a good question too, and it’s not so easy to clearly differentiate.

I used to work in a branding agency. The owner always used the christian cross as the best example of “trademark” (it’s anthropomorphic, can be reduced or made in 3D and still be recognizable, can be made into gadgets, set on corporate buildings etc.). When I first heard him I thought he was a genius, then I found out that the example is so wide spread that it’s nearly abused…

Thanks for doing the heavy lifting of collecting and sharing these. These are also some really lovely marks, and inspiring to see what a talented designer can do with a symbol we’re all used to seeing. In the right hands, y’ know?

It’s amazing how the cross has such a strong relation with such a small amount of industries: Christianity, Medical services and Swiss-style design.

Because of this, it’s a good idea to stay away from cross logos when designing for other industries, unless specifically asked for. In many of those logos, I see religion, even if they have nothing to do with Christianity.

David & to others interested,

The SwissAir logo was designed relatively recently particularly when you compare it to the ‘AmericanAirlines’ logo or the even older ‘Lufthansa’ logo. It was by Tyler Brûlé of London-based, Winkreative.

Vastly different to any logo in it’s industry, at least to the best of my knowledge. It’s reminiscent of the countries modernist legacy. This and the aforementioned logotypes are winners for me. They have and will continue to stand the test of time, that alone is a crucial part of Branding.

I like this collection! Good job! It’s interesting once you design a logo, how you mentally recognize and critique other logos and servicemarks that pop up on your daily journey. I love logos, especially b/w ones. Those seem to have a burn in effect on your retina, like the old monitor burn in’s that screen savers were created for! I’m inspired! Oh, and simple is better! That’s my 2 cents.

As most people know, the Cross is a symbol of Jesus Christ. This does beg the question, though…when does a symbol become a logo? When does a logo, become a symbol?

Of coarse, the Cross is the greatest and most recognisable symbol ever, but it’s also a widely-used “logo” to promote everything from Christianity, to Churches, to Charities.

Adversely, it is also used in different forms (like upside-down) to promote satanism, KKK, etc (As as a Christian, I say in blasphemous ways).

Maybe there’s another article in this one, David. I wonder how many more symbols/logos there are?

There is quite an important element of chronology that you are overlooking, and which shaped most of the logos in this post.

The Swiss flag represents the Christian cross, with all branches of the same length. The creator of the Red Cross was Swiss and he used the flag of his country with the color reversed. The “red cross” became widely recognised as a symbol for health and hospitals, and it is now used as a reference to something medical in many logo designs.

And for Swiss companies, it’s only natural to use the shape of the Swiss cross as a defining attribute.

The Christian cross and the Swiss flag are not logos per se, but many things that relates to them will make a reference to the cross, and they shouldn’t really be called “similarities”.

Andrew: the upside-down cross is also used in christianity, if I recall correctly the disciple Peter is said to be crucified upside down.
By the way, “satanic” philisophies/religions usually use the downward pointing pentagram. Inverted crosses symbolise rejection of christian dogma’s/values and are usually worn by the usual “rebel”-classes.

Although crosses are usually associated with christianity, they aren’t exclusively christian. By the way, I think the “medical crosses” owe more to the red cross/”inverted” swiss flag than christianity (although the origins of that flag are probably christian).

Sorry David, I still have to write that post on religious symbols! ;)

I would love to see another series like this, but covering the usage of talk bubbles, e.g., “talk to chuck”.

Legacy hospital and new horizon were the best logos in all of them.
Mr. David your cooperation to give us information about logos is really appreciable.
Thanks a lot

I’d be very interested to see where design is going. I’m thinking that the future might hold seemingly unlikely icons as logos? Perhaps it’s because I recently created a sculpture ala Schwitters and our recently departed Rauschenberg for a class project. It’s hard to go back to college once one has passed his prime..but it wasn’t the fellow students which gave me grief, but rather my Professor/Advisor who continually called me “old” or “non-traditional” student. I played “field hand” in her office, if only to get through the semester. But I have to be quiet until the final grades are release (not that it matters since I am not matriculating- except of course to me). Okay I am blathering. Best, me

I just had a second look at these logos, I really like the new horizon design.

@marotorod i really like that Spainsh logo you posted.

Thanks very much to all who commented. I took a two-week break just after publishing this post, so excuse my delayed reply.


The Johnson & Johnson issue with the Red Cross is an interesting one, and I touched upon it in my original Red Cross logo post.


No need to apologise at all. I’m sure you have much more important things on your plate.


There’s certainly another article on what you mention (symbols becoming logos and vice versa). If you choose to work on it, I look forward to that.

While I DO think that the cross has been overused in design, especially lately with minimalism being all the rage, I think things like the cross and the circle are non-unique enough that they can be a much-repeated base for designs. Of course, I say base, which means a designer must then inject meaning and individuality into them.

I was just going to post something about the International Red Cross relations, but then saw Yves has already done that.

One thing I do want to add is that this short version of a cross (like the Swiss flag), after being promoted by the International Red Cross movement, has completely lost its religious meaning in some part of the world. I am thinking how in China the symbol now acts purely as an emblem or a sign for medicine. This happens when you put a cruciform sign in a place where Christianity is more-or-less unheard of. It has nothing to do with Churches opening hospitals or Christianity’s identification with health care; the semiotics behind the cross purely came from the Red Cross movement.

By the way, somehow Chinese have decided to adopt a modified version of the cross. The colors were reversed, making it look like a Swiss flag, but not exactly Swiss because the cross isn’t framed in a square or rectangle. Instead they made up this flower-like frame, kind of like a red cloverleaf, with a white cross in the middle. Don’t know why.

You asked about flags and copyright and here are my thoughts on the subject.

National flags are rarely protected by copyright as most are too old for copyrights to apply. The original authors of the Tricolore, the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack are long dead and their work are in the public domain copyright-wise.

However there are trademark concerns around the use of national flags in logos. According to article 6 c in the Paris Convention on the Protection of Industrial Property a trademark cannot be registered if it contains “armorial bearings, flags, and other State emblems, of the countries of the Union, official signs and hallmarks indicating control and warranty adopted by them, and any imitation from a heraldic point of view”.

I know most about the practice of the Danish Patent and Trademark Office. They will only register trademarks using the Danish flag as long as the trademark is intended for use of products of Danish origin as as well as they will only register trademarks using the civil flag – a special government permission is needed for registration of trademarks using the Danish state flag.

Trademarks using foreign flags will not be registered unless they are already registered in the country of the foreign flag, or unless that state has given permission.

Furthermore the flags used in a trademark has to have a connection to the products or services offered so that consumers will not be given a false impression of the geographical origin of the product.

However there are other uses that are permissible. For instance using the colours of a flag is not the same as using the flag. While it might be difficult to get the Stars and Stripes registered for use on a product produced elsewhere it is completely legitimate to create a red, white and blue trademark for that product.

Rules regarding the use of national flags vary from country to country and it would be wise to check out the legislation and contacting the relevant authorities before using the flag of a country.

Furthermore one should be careful using flags. Special legislation might protect them in addition to copyright and trademark law. For instance you need permission from the police to fly a foreign flag in public in Denmark.

So before using flags in a design one should be careful to check the relevant legislation.

Similar rules can apply to regional, local and ethnic flags. However the picture is more muddled here. While some regional flags enjoy an official status, others are just cultural symbols with no official sanction. If those unofficial flags are in the public domain because the copyright has either expired or has been relinquished they are free to use as well as any other public domain symbol.

Regarding flags of private organisations and companies the rule of thumb is to leave them alone unless you have permission from the organisation. These flags will often be of such recent date that copyright still applies and the flags and the symbols used in them will often be trademarks of the organisation.

It is deeply disturbing to the SWISS seeing the Swiss National Emblem in front of a good many medical institutions in the US or on the backs of
rescuers etc. While the Americans fully know and acknowledge the origin of the RedCross symbol, the erroneous use of the Swiss National emblem seems to express the ignorance of the users.

When countries use both flags and logos, the distinction can easily blur. For instance, Italy’s tourism market is promoted using Landor’s happy pickle, but surely the flag would be more effective (flags and copyright — I’d like to know more about that).

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