Branding, Logo Blog

A few words about the history of the Red Cross

It was after a bloody battle in 1859 that a man from Geneva came up with the idea of creating a neutral organization to care for the wounded. He was upset about seeing dead and wounded soldiers left on the battlefield. So, he decided to write a memoir about his experience and sent it to various political leaders and army generals in order to make a difference.

A few years later, several grand duchies and countries agreed to meet to sign a treaty to protect wounded soldiers and medical units. Many organizations were created in different countries under the fundamental principles of humanity, neutrality, volunteerism, and universality. The Red Cross helped during the First and Second World Wars, and then during various armed conflicts thereafter. The Red Cross organization now has millions of members.

The first Red Cross logo

The Red Cross logo was created at the conference of 1864 in Geneva. It was simply inspired by the Switzerland flag where the organization was created. The colours of the flag were then inverted: a red cross on a white background instead of a white cross on a red background. Since then, it has been used by the organization and is a universally recognized symbol. Only those helping the injured can use or wear the red cross or red crescent symbol.

Interestingly, in France, pharmacies were using the Red Cross symbol in their store fronts. As this could be confused with the Red Cross logo, they had to display another colour and chose a green cross instead.

Red Cross Emblem - Canadian Red Cross

Other logos and variations

There are several variations of the Red Cross logo. Several countries have their own version, most are combined logos – the name of the organization has been added to the symbol of the Red Cross.

However, the symbol of the Red Cross was not suitable for everyone. The organization behind the Red Cross then had to adapt and create other branches for its organization: the Red Crescent and the Red Crystal.

To begin with, it was the Ottoman Empire that created the symbol of the red crescent, because the red cross that was being used looked too much like the one of Christianity and the Crusaders. The Persians then took the opportunity to create their own logo, the lion and red sun, which would not be used very long. It was finally in 1929 that the red crescent was finally accepted by the main committee. Subsequently, other countries would ask to create new versions of the Red Cross logo, but these requests would be refused.

International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement wiki | TheReaderWiki

After World War II, Israel faced a dilemma. This country didn’t want to use the symbol of the red cross nor that of the red crescent. So, in 2005 that the red crystal was created to meet the demands from countries that did not recognize themselves in the two previously created symbols. Now, only the emblems of the red cross, red crescent and red crystal are accepted and used by the organization.


How to use the Red Cross to create your logo

The history of the Red Cross can certainly inspire you to create your logo. First, the creators of this symbol were inspired by their region to design the logo we know today. Before you read this article, did you know that the Red Cross flag was simply the opposite of the Swiss flag? This organization is not the first to have done something like this. The BMW logo was directly inspired by the coat of arms of Bavaria, the region where the company was founded.

So, what could have made the Red Cross logo so widely used and recognized around the world? This is partly due to it being a simple geometric shape without superfluous details. This made it an easy symbol to reproduce when a disaster occurred, and the means were limited. As well, it is a bit of the same practical sense of minimalism that we see with the current logos of large companies.

Finally, the last point we want to make is the fact that it is important to have different versions of your logo and adapt it as needed. The primary intention of the Red Cross was to create an organization that would be present all over the world. However, their original symbol did not work in some countries. They then decided to adapt. If you are creating a logo and want to break into new markets in other continents, you may need to learn about the efficacy of your emblem in other countries and modify it as needed.  


In conclusion, the Red Cross logo remains one of the most well-known symbols in the world. Simple but effective, it represents hope and mutual aid in difficult times. Now that you know the meaning of this universal logo, do you know the symbolism of shapes? As the Red Cross quickly discovered, shapes have meanings and can be associated with certain parts of history.



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