The OSS Architects Who Designed the UN Logo

October 24, 2022


Oliver Lincoln Lundquist, a talented architect and industrial designer, worked for the Office of Strategic Services, CIA’s predecessor, during World War II and led the team that designed the official United Nations emblem.

In 1945, the U.S. State Department asked the OSS to help create graphics for the UN Conference on International Organization in San Francisco, where the UN Charter was drafted. Lundquist’s team set out to create a lapel pin for the delegates that could serve as their official form of identification.

The pin was initially designed by another OSS officer and architect, Donal McLaughlin, who worked for Lundquist as the director of graphics for the conference.

This became the prototype for the UN logo you see today.

The design consisted of a top-down view of the globe, centered on North America and showing all of the continents except Antarctica, with two olive branches on either side to symbolize peace. The design was in shades of blue, a purposeful choice to contrast with red, a color traditionally associated with war.

The final emblem chosen by the UN was a slightly modified version of this design.

After the war, Donal McLaughlin started his own studio and spent the next 40 years designing graphics and exhibits for various clients in Washington, D.C. including the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Health, and the American Watch and Clock Industry.

Oliver Lundquist also went into private practice. As an architect, he worked on hospitals, schools, private residences, and even the former Kodak Building in Manhattan. He also worked on logos.

The UN logo isn’t the only design of Lundquist’s around today. He also created one of the most recognizable product packages still found on store shelves: the blue-and-white Q-Tips box.

Want to learn more?

A fascinating history of the UN logo was written by Donal McLaughlin, called: “Origin of the Emblem and other Recollections of the 1945 UN Conference.” [McLaughlin_Monograph – PDF 5.19 MB].

*This file was provided courtesy of the UN Archives and Records Management Section.


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