The United Nations (The UN) is one of the most famous organisations in the world.
Today on the Canny Creative design design blog The UN Logo design and branding comes under scrutiny.
Here’s what The UN is all about:
“The stated aims of the United Nations include promoting and facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, civil rights, civil liberties, political freedoms, democracy, and the achievement of lasting world peace.”
The most famous incarnation of The UN logo design is seen above, a white logo set against the famous UN blue background. However, this representation is actually the UN Flag. The official UN logo is gold in colour as seen below.
The original logo was designed in 1946 and was approved on 7 December 1946 with the UN Flag following in October 1947. Taken directly from the United Nations website, this is how they describe the logo:
“The design is a map of the world representing an azimuthal equidistant projection centred on the North Pole, inscribed in a wreath consisting of crossed conventionalized branches of the olive tree, in gold on a field of smoke-blue with all water areas in white. The projection of the map extends to 60 degrees south latitude, and includes five concentric circles.”
Put simply, the logo is a map of the world on an angle, surrounded by a wreath of olive tree branches, which symbolise peace. The logo is gold in colour and the areas of water take the colour of the background the logo is sat on. The logo also includes five circles, one inside the other, laid over the top of the world map.
Looking at the UN logo design and how it’s used, I have to wonder whether it’s fit for purpose? Let’s take a closer look.
1. Is The UN Logo Design too Highly Detailed?
There’s a lot of detail going on within the UN Logo. In fact, there’s a lot going on within the logo itself. Yes, they’re the United Nations, they represent the world, they represent peace and a whole lot more, but does the logo really need to go there? I heard somebody say once “a logo should gently suggest what you’re about, not describe what you do” and I think that’s something that could be taken on board here.
This leads me onto my next point perfectly…
2. Is the World Represented the Best it Could be?
Like the old adage goes “keep it simple stupid”. I’ve already explained how I think the logo is perhaps a little too fussy. And the element of the logo that is the most fussy, the world itself. The angle it’s at anyway, makes it unrecognisable without looking for that extra second.
Obviously, it becomes apparent that it’s a world map. And, when put into context, you know what it’s about. I just think it could work with less fuss and less detail. There are numerous different ways the world could be represented and I’m not sure whether the physical representation of planet Earth is the best way.
3. How Does it Scale Down?
Leading on from points one and two, the complexity of the logo makes it difficult to scale down. How would it work as a Twitter icon (I know – The UN probably doesn’t have Twitter) or work as a website favicon? Could it be stitched or made into a metal pin badge? The answer – probably not.
If the logo was less ornate and less fussy in design, scalability would not be a problem. As it stands though, I wouldn’t like to recreate it in any way, shape or form, or be responsible for overseeing the whole United Nations branding package. With mobile technology on the rise and growing easy access to world affairs and events, maybe it’s time for the UN to adapt?
4. Those Concentric Circles
On their website, the United Nations say that the logo symbolises world peace. Yes, the olive branches, arguably, yes to the world too. However, those concentric circles? Really?
Is it just me, or do they remind you of a target or a crosshair? Which goes without saying, isn’t a peaceful icon. It could also be a radar perhaps, something else I don’t associate with peace. I could be being particularly fussy here but I really don’t think those circles communicate in the way the UN want them too. Maybe I’ve played too many Playstation games?
5. Is The UN Logo Design Effective?
There’s an argument to be made that The UN logo design is actually ineffective.
Effective logo design should be memorable, simple, versatile, appropriate, and timeless.
- Memorable: I’d say it’s “kind of” memorable. I can recall it if I think about it, but I always forget the way in which they’ve skewed the world. Half a point.
- Simple: Absolutely not. With the world, the concentric circles, the rosette/surrounding leaves, the logo is far from simple. Zero points.
- Versatile: Again, it’s a “kind of.” As they have no word mark sitting with their logo most of the time, that automatically adds some versatility. However, look at it on their current website, and tell me that it works? Half a point.
- Appropriate: Absolutely. It sums up what The UN is all about, a focus on the world, and making the world better. The blue colour works as it feels safe and secure. Gold, because of the prestige of the association. A full point.
- Timeless: Is it timeless in the way of Coca Cola or McDonalds? No, probably not. But I doubt they’ll ever change it, and realistically, it will stand up for a long period of time, because it doesn’t follow logo design trends. Another full point.
All in all, that’s 3 points out of a possible 5 for the UN logo design. All around, it has a “kind of, maybe it’s good enough” type vibe.
But I think it could be a lot stronger, especially for the size and scale of the organisation it represents.
Conclusion: The UN Logo (United Nations Logo) Design Case Study
I’m not saying that the UN should change their logo and branding. I’m just highlighting a few things that I would consider.
The logo itself is by no means bad, but I also don’t think it’s perfect. That opens up a bigger debate, is a logo ever perfect? Will you ever please everyone? Should a logo be there to please? The answer – probably not.
As a footnote, I would suggest the UN look at how they use their logo on their website. It’s so small its blurry and distorted. Check it out and see what you think.
What do you think of the United Nations logo? Is it effective? Does it communicate what they’re all about? What do you make of those concentric circles?