When a shape is just a shape

April 23, 2010

Garnering attention in the media recently is the logo created for the Nuclear Security Summit, hosted by President Obama in Washington, DC last week. A theory popularized by a FOX News segment, but also running rampant across various newspapers and blogs, claims that the logo echoes the Islamic crescent moon and star symbol. These commentators go on to speculate that the logo’s alleged hidden meaning reveals President Obama’s sympathies with the Muslim world.

A similar reaction occurred in February when the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency logo was compared to an Islamic crescent moon and star, along with President Obama’s campaign logo. However, speculations were debunked when it was discovered that the logo was developed one year before the 2008 elections, removing any ties between President Obama and the logo’s creation. Graphic designers know all too well about the subjective visual connections that can knock a seemingly innocuous logo concept out of the running. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart tackled the Nuclear Security Summit logo issue in a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek segment that calls to attention the sometimes-incorrect leaps of connection that cause designers, our clients and the general public to make certain negative visual associations. Of course, sometimes there is a clear, intentional connection to be made from one piece of design to another… and sometimes there is not. Sometimes a shape is just a shape. In this specific case, the shape is that of the Rutherford-Bohr model of the atom, the actual inspiration for the Nuclear Security Summit logo. As Jon Stewart quips, White House officials “are not secret Muslims. They’re nerds.”

Here is the clip from The Daily Show

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