22 April 2013

[design] A Symbol For Earth Day

2928.April 22nd, upon which eve this missive is being prepared, is recognized worldwide as Earth Day. And, in this era when ecological conditions seem more dear than ever, what with the state of the Arctic icecap (I hear there are projections that the Arctic will be ice-free in summer by the year 2025) and the rather depressing staccato stutter-step of I think it's some achievement hat Earth Day is being taken seriously as a day of awareness for all rather than just something 'hippies' celebrate (as I recall was its reputation upon incarnation).

Our ecology is important; it's the most beautiful world in the world. I couldn't be happy without you.

There was a symbol, created in the 70s by cartoonist Ron Cobb, which attempts to give ecology an icon. I remember it from then. It looked (and still does look) like this:

It looks kind of like the Greek letter theta, and like many such symbols, is invested with meaning. It can be seen as a minuscule 'e', a letter which stands for many positive things; Earth, environment, ecosystem, &c, &c. The crossbar is framed by an oval with a narrowing stroke at the top and the bottom; that the narrow parts are on the vertical axis renders a minuscule 'o' shape that we typographers call 'unstressed'. This gives two silhouettes; an ellipse along the exterior (a very natural shape, planetary orbits do this) and a circle interior (we live and socially relate in circles, there's a circle of life, and to the eye the Earth from space is approximately circular in shape.

The website PeaceButtons has a delightfully wonderful graphic that explores the various meanings; enlightenment thuswise can be found at http://peacebuttons.info/E-News/ecologysymbol.htm. They even tie the square shape in.

The first design I ever saw for an Earth Day or an Ecology flag, now, looked like this:

It was also designed by Ron Cobb. It features the Ecology glyph in yellow in a green union with green stripes. The resemblance to the US flag is obvious, and appropriate as I think, with our awesome technical prowess and national drive, if only we could summon it, the USA could lead the world in cleaning up the mess that was made. One might point out that it's also appropriate in as much as the USA led the way in making a great deal of that mess, but I'm not necessarily here to point fingers.

There is another official Earth Day flag, complete with ™ and all. Nothing personal, but I like the above better. I like the symbolism in the Ecology glyph, and I like the color green. I am an Oregonian after all, and green is what we try to do here.

Think of it as you go through Earth Day. What we do affects everyone else. And, with 7 billion of us on this shrinking blue marble, now, more than ever, we are our brother's (and sister's) keeper.

At least we can be a good neighbor.

And so it goes.

(Since Ron Cobb's website is just a front page right now, here's his Wikipedia entry. He's been places, yo.)

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