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Eleven Iconic Manifestos

Previously we talked about the fifth type of manifestos – a visual manifesto. And, there are several different styles of visual manifesto. For instance: a graphic, a word picture, an infographic, a photograph and an icon or symbol. In this post we are going to focus on the use of icons or symbols to represent your big idea.

1 Country Flag

Australian Flag

Perhaps the most iconic of all visual manifestos is a national flag. People salute them; go to war carrying them and even burn them to register their displeasure.

The Australian Flag design was the result of a competition in 1901 to represent the newly declared Federation of the Commonwealth of Australia. Five people were declared the joint designers of the new flag because they all submitted a similar design.

National flags are rarely changed unless there is a distinct change in constitution and leadership. Canada did change their national flag in 1965 whilst Australia and New Zealand have talked about it for many years with no change. In contrast, I think the possibility of changing the US flag is effectively zero.

2 Smiley face

Smiley FaceIn 1963, New York radio station WMCA was running a competition to promote themselves as the ‘Good Guys’. They hired an advertising agency to create a happy face to fit on a button. The final design by commercial artist Harvey Ball has become one of the most potent symbols of the past 50 years: the smiley face.

3 Peace sign

Peace SignThroughout history there have been many different icons for peace, including the dove. British designer Gerald Holtom created the modern Peace sign in 1958 to represent the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. The symbol represents the letters ‘N’ and ‘D’ as displayed in semaphore or visual flag system. The ‘N’ is the two downward and angled lines and the ‘D’ is the two vertical lines. Over a number of years ‘nuclear disarmament’ became linked to the anti-war movement and thus this icon became the peace sign.

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4 Map

Australian Institute of SportWe’ve already talked about national flags as icons of a country and everything that it stands for. A map of a country has its origins in science as a recording of the landscape. And, becomes the political boundary of the nation. When drawn as a symbol rather than as a literal description it does call forward all the thoughts of that country – provided the shape is recognized. And, it then becomes a prompt for creating new representations such as one here for the Australian Institute of Sport design created by Landor Associates.

This highlights that manifestos can be represented in different ways that have slightly different meanings and values. And, whilst the burning of a flag is often viewed as an act of treason, the burning of a map is not.

5 Apple

Apple ComputerThere are as many corporate logos as there are corporations. And, given space and brevity, I’ve chosen one to represent all others. This honour goes to Apple.

The original Apple logo was a graphic showing Sir Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree. Check it out on Wikipedia here. This didn’t last long before Rob Janoff designed the iconic rainbow apple. The bite taken out of the apple was used so that it wouldn’t be confused with a cheery and the rainbow colours emphasize the fact the Apple II could generate graphics in colour. Today, the logo has been refined and the rainbow been replaced by flat black shape.

6 Olympic Rings

Olympic RingsThe modern Olympic Games were the brainchild of Pierre de Coubertin. He created the Olympic motto of ‘Faster, Higher Stronger’. And, later the Olympic Rings that show five interlocking rings coloured blue, yellow, black, green and red on a white background. The coloured rings represent the colours that appeared on all the national flags that competed in the Olympic Games upto 1912 when the flag was designed. It’s a flag designed from a collection of other flags.

7 The Christian Cross

Christian CrossThe Christian or Latin cross is the best-known symbol of the Christianity. It represents the crucifixion of Jesus. It’s a stripped down version of a crucifix, which shows Jesus on the cross. Whilst we recognize this icon today as belonging to the Christian religion, the symbol predates this period and is said to have originally represented fire, kindling or the sun.

8 The Swastika

When the word ‘swastika’ is mentioned most people think of the Nazi Party of Germany that adopted their design in 1920. The Nazi’s chose the Swastika because of it’s long history and reference to the Aryans of India. The Nazi’s believe Aryan culture as the pre-eminent race of the planet and they rotated the design 45 degrees to represent their goal of racial purity.

Hindu SwastikaNazi Swastika

The original Swastika is a lucky charm that was used in Ancient India and classical Europe. It is known as the Hindu Swastiki and is still used by Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

The story of the Swastika highlights that icons can be given new meaning when adopted by new organisations.

9 Love Heart

The love heart symbol was originally a metaphor for the heart as an organ and was developed at the end of the middle ages. During the 15th Century, the meaning morphed and the heart became synonymous with love.

I Love New York

Today, the symbol has been re-used in many forms. Perhaps the most popular version is the ‘I love New York’ icon designed by Milton Glasser and Bobby Zarem as part of an advertising campaign to promote tourism to New York.

10 Ying Yang

Yin and YangThis image is the most popular version of the Chinese concept of ying and yang (Taiji). It represents the religion of Taoism and is also used by non-Taoists to represent the opposites existing in harmony. There are similar patterns found in Celtic, Etruscan, Roman and earlier cultures.

11 Superman Shield

Superman ShieldIt might seem strange to be upholding a comic book symbol next to those of the great religions, countries and worldwide movements. And, the Superman Shield as created by DC Comics was the first used by a superhero in 1938. Later, it became the model for future superheros that used their symbol on the chest of their costumes. The Superman motto of ‘Truth, Justice and the American Way’ points to the manifesto quality and meaning behind this design.

Can you think of any other iconic manifestos we could add to this list?

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