Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The iconic recycling logo has become an internationally recognised standard. When you see the three arrows, you know exactly what it means. Mark Wilson at FastCoDesign deems it “a design classic that ranks with the Coca-Cola and Nike marks, for sheer ubiquity.”Gary Anderson, the man who designed the logo, recently wrote an retrospective in the Financial Times about how it all went down.
He was 23 years old when he entered a design competition held in 1970 by the Container Corporation of America which asked contestants to create a symbol for recycled paper.
Anderson wasn’t even a graphic designer — he was studying engineering at USC.
“It didn’t take me long to come up with my design: a day or two. I almost hate to admit that now,” writes Anderson.
“But I’d already done a presentation on recycling waste water and I’d come up with a graphic that described the flow of water: from reservoirs through to consumption, so I already had arrows and arcs and angles in my mind.”
He won, and took home around $2,000. Anderson doesn’t even remember the exact number. The winning symbol was given to the public domain, and that was it.
Anderson’s impact finally hit him years later on a trip to Amsterdam.
“I’ll never forget: when I walked off the plane, I saw my symbol,” writes Anderson. “It was on a big, igloo-shaped recycling bin. And it was bigger than a beach ball! I was really struck. I hadn’t thought about that symbol for years and here it was hitting me in the face.”
Now, his logo is everywhere.
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