The True Story Behind the Peace Sign

peace sign

The peace sign is used around the world in countless protests. Be it a kid or an adult, everyone knows about it. But not everyone knows how it came into being. Here’s the real story behind the peace sign.

Background of the Peace Sign

The peace sign is taken from the nuclear disarmament signal flag. Its history dates back almost half a century. Gerald Holtom, a graphic designer, created the design in 1958 in the UK.

The idea behind the sign was to make a sign for the upcoming nuclear disarmament march in the UK. Therefore, he wanted to create a visual that would penetrate people’s minds and stay there for a longer period.

Once the flag was approved, in a conversation with the editor of the peace news, Gerald Holtom said that his inspiration behind the peace sign stemmed from personal reasons. Therefore, he put in his best work to come up with the sign.

The symbol was used for the nuclear disarmament campaign in the British empire in 1958 after approval.

What Happened Next?

After two years, this sign was used in a pamphlet that was circulated by a committee of nonviolent action. And with every passing year, there would be more sightings of the same sign under the banner of an American anti-nuclear group.

On top of this, this sign was also used in several demonstrations and marches against the ongoing war in Vietnam.

Therefore, the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King and other civil rights activists used the sign to get across their message of peace.

The idea behind it was to promote peace through a peaceful sign. As time went on, people would see the sign everywhere. For example, people scribbled it on a public wall or spray-painted in an alleyway.

Breaking Down The Peace Sign

According to Gerald Holtom, two aspects were brought together to design the peace sign or the nuclear disarmament sign in 1958.

The designer explains that the vertical line in the center of the flag represents the semaphore for the signal for the letter D. Therefore, it represents disarmament.

And the other line that goes around on both sides, represents the letter N – which stands for nuclear. Therefore, when we look at it as a whole, it represents nuclear disarmament in semaphore signals (which is an irony in itself as it was a military sign language used by the navy).

The Evolution of Peace Sign

The sign of nuclear disarmament and peace sign has been through an interesting journey of evolution. It was first created for nuclear disarmament in 1958 for a march in London.

However, over the years it has evolved into a symbol that speaks to all languages and gives off a signal of peace for everyone.

It doesn’t matter where you are, or what protest you are going to. You will see a range of placards that will have it on them. Therefore, the peace sign evolved into a symbol of protest over the years.

Peace Through Peace

There is another interesting thing about this sign. People often say that to solve a conflict, you need to go through a period of war. However, this sign states that only light can drive out darkness. Therefore, one can say that the peace symbol is a sign of protesting for peace with peace.

On top of this, there is another interesting fact about the peace sign. The designer of the sign did not put any copyright on it. The intention behind it was that anyone in the world would be able to use it for any purpose. Therefore, it was a timeless message available for the world to use.

Other Signs of Peace

Alongside the conventional peace sign, other symbols portray peace as well. For example, the V sign often symbolizes peace for people around the world. On top of this, olive branches mean peace for the same purpose.

Moving on, people also use white poppy flowers to represent peace. And lastly, cranes and doves also symbolize peace in society.


People use peace signs all over the world today. However, the story behind its origin is way darker than one can imagine.

The sign came into being when a designer named Gerald created a symbol for nuclear disarmament for a march in 1958 in London.

However, over the years, the peace sign has evolved into a symbol of protest for peace through peace. It doesn’t matter where you are, you will see this sign carved onto public property or painted on flags. Due to a designer without copyrights, his design became renowned.

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