End of War: Milton Glaser's Process & Re-imagining Peace

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Milton Glaser, renowned graphic designer and author of the new book In Search of the Miraculous or One Thing Leads to Another, discusses his new book about his creative process--and helps us launch a new project: Re-imagine the Peace Sign--as part of our End of War series.


Milton Glaser

Comments [36]

TJ Colatrella from Boiceville NY

If you want to see one new version of the Peace Symbol the Government flipped out over...Google Stars4Peace, my design done to government Scale and government Spec. TJ

Mar. 30 2012 11:34 AM
Jeff Park Slope

Jim, I didn't forget it, just knew that any discussion of US action in that area would be completely misunderstood by most readers on this site. The US thus far has resisted attempts by Israel's enemies to destroy the only democracy in that area by not preventing Israel from defending itself. Of course if you think that Israel has no right to exist, these actions are a problem for you. If you think it does have the right to exist, but in a much smaller space, think about what happens when it pulls out of territory it legally occupied as a result of prior attacks - rockets from Gaza, suicide bombers from the West Bank.

Mar. 28 2012 05:32 PM
phyllis from PIERMONT, NEW YORK

The three dots in a circle is ndom Nicholas Roerich.
Check out the Dream Flag designed by HH.Karmapa XVI
Milton Glaser is the bees knees! Kind. Gracious. Intelligent. and more!!! Hurrah for MG!!!

Mar. 28 2012 05:19 PM

For the true story of the origin of the peace symbol and its inherently problematic nature, - straight from Eric Holtom, the artist/designer who created the symbol in 1958 for the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament - see

"I was in despair. Deep despair. I drew myself: the representative of an individual in despair, with hands palm outstretched outwards and downwards in the manner of Goya's peasant before the firing squad. I formalised the drawing into a line and put a circle round it."

Given this first-hand account from the artist, who himself came to regret the negativity of the design, the subsequently proffered explanation that the symbol actually represents the semaphore flag positions for the letters N and D appears to be a contrived attempt to come up with a more positive way to talk about what had already become a popular symbol.

But the negative cononotations remain. The symbol does look exactly like someone "laying down their arms." That's how it was widely interpreted throughout the sixties. Unfortunately, that despairing gesture of "surrender" plays right into the hands of those ready to dismiss the "peace movement" as hopelessly out of touch with reality, if not a collection of gutless draft-dodging hippy-dippy flower children who stand for nothing requiring any effort or discipline.

Mar. 28 2012 01:32 PM
Carey from New York

Thank you Brian and Mr. Glaser for a really interesting interview with a graphic design icon! Will have to check out the new book.

My favorite take on the peace sign was done by my mother Maureen Scanlon some years back:

From the site:
"When the US during the Bush administration first invaded Iraq, so many of us were caught off guard by the onslaught of those yellow "Support Our Troops" magnets that simultaneously invaded our roadways. How did they become so widespread at such a fast pace? How did those magnets quickly morph from a neutral stance in support of our troops to a pro-war, pro-Bush, anti-peace agenda?

"The Peace Ribbon™, based on the peace symbol, takes back the yellow ribbon, and represents support for our troops through striving for peace. "

I've got the magnet on my car!

Mar. 28 2012 12:41 PM
TJ Colatrella from Bioceville NY

Being for many years a Woodstock NY resident.. I sent before anyone else saw it my design Stars4Peace to Milton Glaser.. He could not have been more supportive or gracious or willing to help, but he also warned me wisely how hard it is to get a design into the public view, even Ben and Jerry's Foundation ignored it and I sent them one of my very few actual flags printed nearby with the design in the blue field...! If you Google Stars for Peace you'll find it up on the internet for free usage if you go to my Facebook page it's there as my avatar..! I also contact Sony Music proposing a CD of various Artists Using Stars4Peace get it..?, to aid wounded veterans and or Doctors without Borders with this image as the CD cover and even maybe a pull out window stick on that pleas of easy the static kind or for cars or home windows or mirrors etc..! Thanks TJ

Mar. 28 2012 12:20 PM

@Jeff Park Slope

You forgot one. Action in Palestine - no way. US won't allow it.

Mar. 28 2012 12:09 PM
Muriel from Ground Zero

I notice a comment saying that when I said Ban the Bomb will never work it made no sense. Basically if you try to negate a concept by focusing on its opposite you instead empower that opposite. It is a subtle truth in activation in the universe that the power goes to what you focus on so, focus on bomb and thats what you get. The ban part means nothing. It is a subtle yet empowering thing to realize right use of language for activating what we want. If you want something say what you want and not what you don't want because that is what you get if your focus or intention is on it.

Mar. 28 2012 11:54 AM
Jeff Park Slope

To add to jgarbuz:
The US Army has been the greatest force for peace that the world has ever known. It has liberated Europe and Japan (WWII) and South Korea, prevented Soviet incursions from Eastern Europe into Western Europe (preventing war), prevented the enslavement of the South Vietnamese by the north (until the Democrats defunded the South's government), has thus far prevented a Chinese invasion of Taiwan and of course has had many other successes. Peace is not simply the absence of war. Total Nazi victory in Europe would have resulted in peace, but would not have been very desirable.
The UN includes nations that are evil and they do or seek to do evil things. Action in Syria - no way, Russia won't permit it. Action to liberate the Tibetans, no way, China won't allow it.

Mar. 28 2012 11:46 AM
Christopher B. from Brooklyn

I thought Brian's 'black olives or green olives?' was glib verging on insulting. The olive branch may not
be a product of graphic design, but I thought the caller's point was well made and elegant. Your callers deserve better, Brian. Your 'Sotomayor and the Supremes' hits a similar tone that lowers the level of discourse. If you want to be even more sensationalistic, go for it. But I for one will be very disappointed.

Mar. 28 2012 11:37 AM
John from Manhattan

Peace symbol origin I believe was a bomber plane (meant to deliver a nuke) surrounded by a circle (which is the internaitonal symbol fo "NO" e.g. no parking) therefore, "no nuke bombing"

Mar. 28 2012 11:31 AM
Laura Tichler

The traditional peace symbol has become too commercialized in recent years. Its printed all over children's clothes and most children have no idea what it means.

Mar. 28 2012 11:30 AM
John A.

Just Subscribed!
Thank-You BL show producers.

Mar. 28 2012 11:28 AM
simon from Manhattan

I discovered Mr. Glazer's work after seeing the sign on the front of his beautiful building. Art is Work.

Mar. 28 2012 11:25 AM
thatgirl from manhattan

john a: the second symbol communicates with far less complication!

Mar. 28 2012 11:24 AM
John A.

Interesting that Hitler was mentioned. In his case his own choice of symbology helped enormously to focus a reaction force against him.

Mar. 28 2012 11:24 AM
Peg from Southern Tier NY

I like the idea of making an abstract symbol that represents a universal sign language gesture for peace. The design should extend what can be communicated without words.

Mar. 28 2012 11:23 AM
thatgirl from manhattan

jim--noble explanation, but don't feed the trolls!

Mar. 28 2012 11:22 AM
Laurie Spiegel from Ground Zero

The peace symbol is the footprint of the dove.

Mar. 28 2012 11:22 AM
thatgirl from manhattan

i never see this in introduction to mr. glaser in any milieu, but he is acting chair at the school of visual arts here--an integral and influential force for many current and future designers!

Mar. 28 2012 11:21 AM
John A.

An old sign, from my childhood:
It represented a sort of global fire department.

Amazingly, it was updated into a real organization.
Sort of.

Mar. 28 2012 11:20 AM
Robert from Rego park

The opposite of war must be love. The heart symbol is universal and understood and is a ready made peace symbol.

Mar. 28 2012 11:20 AM

@jgarbuz from Queens

Yes, the UN is ineffective. But one could argue that it is not because the US has to do more of the work -- but rather because the US refuses to participate as an honest member. You could say the same about other members too, but our governance hypocrisy is perhaps the most impressive among the offenders.

Mar. 28 2012 11:18 AM
john from office

Wow, a symbol will lead to peace?? really, how do you fight an Assad, a Hitler etc, with a sign?

Mar. 28 2012 11:18 AM
Gerry Beatty

The peace symbol has been a fashion fad for more than a year. My granddaughters, 12 and nearly 8, wear it on shirts, bags and jewelry, and so do all their friends. And I sense to them it's just a pretty design: they have little or no concept of its meaning, and certainly no sense of its history.

Mar. 28 2012 11:16 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

"The best way to end wars is to nuke the ones who start them"

So we should nuke ourselves then for starting the Iraq war (which had nothing to do with sadaam attacking his neighbors a decade earlier)

Mar. 28 2012 11:16 AM
thatgirl from manhattan

not surprised you didn't probe that first caller about why the "ban the bomb" symbol "means the opposite of what it's saying," but you should have. her explanation made no sense whatsoever.

Mar. 28 2012 11:16 AM

during reagan's presidency i marketed "simple peace sign bumperstickers" in the back of rolling stone magazine. popular! sold enough to fund months of hitchhiking & camping out west. in that case the old peace sign worked just fine!

Mar. 28 2012 11:13 AM
Morgan Paar from Manhattan

I taught high school and found it hilarious that many students drew the Mercedes-Benz symbol thinking they were writing the peace symbol. Corporations taking control.

Mar. 28 2012 11:13 AM
Kate Conway from NYC


Mar. 28 2012 11:13 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

The UN like the League of Nations has failed! It is a political organization that is symbolic but has no power without the US or other major powers doing the actual work. When Israel was attacked in 1948, it did nothing to stop the aggressors. But when North Korea attacked South Korea, UN troops (mostly American) were dispatched becauee it was an issue of COMMUNIST agression to the US. So the UN is only as good as the major powers willingness to use force.

Mar. 28 2012 11:12 AM
David from West Hempstead

The synbol that best represents peace is the nuclear symbol-proliferation has decreased conflict more than anything else.

Mar. 28 2012 11:11 AM
Maude from Park Slope

Mr. Glaser is my graphic design hero. I'm nervous about showing designs to a client today, and hearing Mr. Glaser gives me... well... a sense of peace! looking forward to reading his new book.
I love his book ART IS WORK.
Thank you both!

Mar. 28 2012 11:11 AM
Muriel from NYC

I have redesigned the peace sign here: Our current symbol created as - ban the bomb- can never work. Mandates created to oppose only enforce their opposition and create more of it. So here is a new symbol designed to activate a commitment for peace. It means I enter world and greet you with love. Please check out the blog.

Mar. 28 2012 11:08 AM
John A.

A vital and engaged UN (yes, with branding) is where my Imagination goes when I hear this challenge. A little flag aint gonna do it. Organization has to back it up.

Mar. 28 2012 11:07 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Ha! Another liberal peacenik! The fact is, the major contribution to ending major wars has been the creation of the atomic bomb! The best way to end wars is to nuke the ones who start them! P.S., the Iraqi wars were started by Saddam when he attacked his neighbors; the Afghan war by those who attacked the WTC and who had sought shelter there under the Taliban.

Mar. 28 2012 11:05 AM

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