A heartfelt symbol emerged from the tragedies of the terrorist attacks on Paris: a black and white peace sign with a quintessential Parisian image, the Eiffel Tower.
French-born and London-based graphic designer Jean Jullien instinctively drew “Peace for Paris” within minutes of hearing about the attacks, he told Wired. He was on vacation at the time, not in Paris.
“It was done on my lap, on a very loose sketchbook, with a brush and ink,” he says. “I didn’t do any sketches. It was a reaction.”
Jullien then posted it around midnight Paris-time to Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook with the caption “Peace for Paris.” It went viral.
Since Friday, people retweeted “Peace for Paris” nearly 60,000 times, liked it 160,000 times on Instagram, and liked it 24,000 times on Facebook. Celebrities, like Anne Hathaway, John Legend, and Cara Delevingne reposted the image. Thousands of Facebook users made it their profile photo.
Julien’s work has fast become a global symbol of solidarity with Paris after terrorists attacks killed at least 130 people and injured hundreds,
Jullien thought only a few people would share it, He first thought that only a few people would share it, he tells Slate, but the image’s simplicity and universal appeal has allowed it to spread quickly.
“It’s an image for everyone,” he says. “It is somehow quite organic, the way these things go — you can’t really plan on it. I would just say that if people have used it so much, and if they felt like it was useful for them to share, then the image worked and I’m happy, so to speak, even though happiness is not really a thought that springs to my mind in such horrible times.”
Offline, people around the world have displayed it in vigils and recreated it on footpaths.
He has reacted to other news too, sketching images to mark the massacre at the offices of French satirical paper Charlie Hebdo, the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, and the legalization of gay marriage in Ireland.
Now that his “Peace for Paris” has brought Jullien international attention, he tells Time the image cements a feeling of hope.
“What I normal do is try to bring a smile on peoples’ faces with my work,” he says. “I got someone emailing me saying they were happy to have seen my message because the feeling of peace and unity took over the raw anger that can come from such an event.”