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BigLogo.gif UN Member States on the Record
History of the United Nations emblem
13 January 2009 / 11:54

[Dateline: New York | Author: iSeek]Lapel Pin

In honour of Mr. Oliver Lincoln Lundquist who passed away on 3 January 2009 -- a designer who played a behind-the-scenes, yet instrumental, role towards the development of the UN emblem during the United Nations Conference on International Organization -- the following is a short overview of the emblem’s creation and history.


At the request of conference organizers, the U.S. State Department asked the Office of Strategic Services to help create all the graphics for the historic 1945 San Francisco Conference at which the UN Charter was drafted.  Mr. Lundquist headed the team of designers tasked with creating an identifying lapel pin for the delegates.


The seemingly small task of creating an image for the pin went to a team of designers, including Donal McLaughlin. Mr. McLaughlin went through dozens of designs until he created what became the prototype for the iconic UN logo we use today.


Today the UN logo is one of the most internationally recognized symbols in the world. It is stamped on peacekeepers’ helmets out in the field, on helicopters and trucks carrying aid, on leaflets that are distributed in all corners of the world carrying the message of the United Nations in a multitude of languages. It is also used on promotional materials, such as posters and books, postcards and a wide range of products. The UN flag offers immediate recognition wherever it is used, symbolizing the value of the work of the Organization, and hope for resolution and resolve in conflict areas. The prototype for the UN Logo, originally designed by Donald McLaughlin


The history of the UN emblem and flag 


Originally, the emblem had a projection of the world centred on the United States as the host country, and omitted Argentina, which at the time was not a member of the United Nations. The idea was to display a globe that would symbolize one world, with the olive branches representing peace.


Blue, considered to be the opposite of red – the colour of war – was selected and subsequently became the official colour for the United Nations.


The original UN blue, which was an expedient choice, matched the blue used by the U.S. Army.  The "UN blue"  that the world now recognizes, was selected following the San Francisco Conference.


Other than using the emblem for the lapel pin, the UN Charter, signed on 26 June 1945, was the first official document to carry what would become the official seal of the United Nations.


A year later, during the first session of the General Assembly, the first Secretary-General, Trygve Lie, suggested that an official emblem should be adopted for the newly created Organization. A committee was tasked to make several modifications to the original design that had been used in San Francisco. Displaying the proposed flag for the United Nations in 1947 (the official emblem at the centre of a background of light blue) are, from left: Andrew W. Cordier, Executive Assistant to the Secretary-General; Sir Hartley Shawcross, United Kingdom; Faris Bey El-Khouri, Syria; Dr. Wahid Raafat, Egypt, and Dr. Ivan Kerno, Assistant Secretary-General in charge of Legal Affairs | Credit: UN Photo


The new version rotated the projection of the world so that east and west were more balanced and all continents could be seen in full, and also included southern South America. The UN logo we all know today was approved by the General Assembly on 7 December 1946 [(A/RES/92(I)].


As the United Nations spread its mission out in the world, it quickly recognized the need to create an identifiable UN Flag as both a sign of neutrality, and as a protective measure for its staff.


An unofficial flag using the emblem of the United Nations had been designed by the Secretariat for use in Greece in 1947. It was embroidered or printed in white on a blue background, along with the name of the Organization in English and French.


After receiving more than a hundred suggestions and designs from all over the world, the Secretary-General felt that the UN emblem already being used possessed ‘simplicity and dignity to a greater extent than any other design’ that had been submitted.


The General Assembly approved the use of the flag as the official emblem of the United Nations on 20 October 1947  [A/RES/167(III)].


Related material 


UN Flag and Emblem