Judge and Jury: Media wires get crossed over Red Cross identity change - The Red Cross left itself open to media sniping over its revealed plans to introduce an additional symbol, says Guy Lane, director of College Design

BT, BP, BA. Whenever there’s a new identity the media likes to turn it into a crisis.

BT, BP, BA. Whenever there’s a new identity the media likes to turn

it into a crisis.

This stems from a deep-rooted Puritanism that’s the enemy of visual

expression, combined with a natural hostility to change.

Other objections are that it’s unnecessary, a waste of money and a

corporate indulgence. So when word got out that the Red Cross was

considering a change of identity the media attacked on all fronts.

Apart from the natural prejudices of the media, there is the

understandable view that, of all identities, this one should be

sacrosanct. After all, the name is the symbol. The symbol is the name.

And through two world wars and many other conflicts lives have depended

on its easy recognition.

As I understand it, this is the story: The Red Cross was set up by a

Swiss banker in 1863 and has had a dual identity since 1876 when it

introduced an Islamic equivalent, the red crescent. This was because the

red cross is perceived by Muslims as a symbol of Christianity rather

that neutrality - despite the fact that the red cross owes its origins

to the Swiss flag.

Now the Red Cross is planning a conference in Madrid in November to

discuss an additional third symbol - one that has neither a Christian

nor Muslim connotation.

The move stems from experience in Bosnia where neither the cross nor the

crescent provided protection for aid workers and the injured from

Christian Serbs and Muslim Bosnians.

Whether the Red Cross is right or wrong to think that a hexagon or a

triangle will suddenly provide protection, they walked straight into

media gunfire. They gave journalists the chance to snipe at them for

political correctness, bureaucratic muddling and cultural


They didn’t stress the fact that the red cross is one of the most

distinctive and widely-recognised symbols ever devised; that they were

planning to retain both the cross and the crescent; and that they were

simply looking into a new, additional symbol for selected use in

religious and extremist trouble spots for the sole purpose of protecting

aid workers and the injured.

Conclusion? If you’re going to get shot at by the media you need more

than a cross, crescent and/or hexagon for protection. And it helps if

you don’t supply your assailants with the ammunition.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in