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UN pays tribute after designer of iconic logo dies at 102

UN pays tribute after designer of iconic logo dies at 102

Donal McLaughlin Jr.
A senior United Nations official paid tribute today to the designer of the original emblem for the world body, Donal McLaughlin Jr., who died peacefully in his sleep last week at the age of 102.

Mr. McLaughlin worked on many projects during his long career, but he will be most remembered for his iconic UN logo design. It is now one of the most recognized symbols in the world, emblazoned on peacekeepers’ helmets in the field, on helicopters and trucks carrying aid, and on leaflets distributed to remote corners of the globe, as well as posters, books, postcards and all manner of UN promotional products.

“The United Nations lost a true friend and hero with the passing away of Donal McLaughlin Jr.,” said Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information.

“The beautiful UN emblem that is now recognized by all peoples around the world was drawn many years ago by Mr. McLaughlin and his team of artists,” said Mr. Akasaka. “The design stemmed from Mr. McLaughlin’s artistry and imagination – and from the knowledge that he was taking part in something meaningful and significant.”

A native New Yorker and Yale University-trained architect, Mr. McLaughlin graduated at the height of the Great Depression and worked on a series of high-profile projects, including the 1939 World’s Fair in the United States and the Tiffany and Company’s flagship store in Manhattan.

During World War II, Mr. McLaughlin joined the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the war-time precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), working mostly on espionage-related designs, such as cigarette-paper packages showing diagrammatic instructions for derailing German trains.

The team – headed by architect and industrial designer Oliver Lundquist, who died in January – was tasked with all the graphic design for the UN Conference on International Organization, the historic 1945 San Francisco Conference of delegates from 50 allied nations who drafted the UN Charter.

The team of designers brainstormed the task of creating an image for the delegates pin. Mr. McLaughlin’s draft was chosen and later became the prototype for the UN logo used today.

"Although he did not know it at the time, Mr. McLaughlin’s emblem would in the years that followed become an enduring symbol of peace that would live far beyond his lifetime,” said Mr. Akasaka.

His design was a view of the atlas from the North Pole down, including all the continents except for Antarctica and placing North America in the centre, with the conference’s name, date and location within a circle. Other members of the team nestled the globe first between crossed laurel branches and then two olive branches.

A revised version of the design was officially adopted as the United Nations emblem by resolution 92(I) on 7 December 1946, which had modifications to the colours and centred the continents along the international dateline.

Mr. McLaughlin, who as a young man dreamed of seeing his designs in brick and stone but used to joke that he is best known for a button, passed away on 27 September at his home in Garrett Park, Maryland, leaving behind three children, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.