Gerald Herbert Holtom (20 January 1914 – 18 September 1985) was a British artist and designer. In 1958, he designed the Nuclear Disarmament (ND) logo, which was adopted the same year by the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), and later became an international peace symbol.
Educated at Gresham's School, Holt, Holtom was a graduate of the Royal College of Art. He had been a conscientious objector during World War II. In 1958, he was working for the Ministry of Education.
There are differing accounts of how the design was conceived. According to CND, Holtom had been invited by the DAC to design artwork for the Aldermaston March. He showed his preliminary sketches to a DAC meeting in February 1958 at the Peace News offices in North London. According to Christopher Driver, who wrote about CND in a 1964 book, The Disarmers, Holtom brought the design, unsolicited, to the chairperson of his local anti-nuclear group in Twickenham and alternative versions were shown at the inaugural meeting of the London CND. Driver wrote, "The first mark on paper, according to Mr. Holtom, was a white circle within a black square, followed by various versions of the Christian cross within the circle". But the cross, for these people, had too many wrong associations – with the Crusaders, with military medals, with the public blessing by an American chaplain of the airplane that flew to Hiroshima – and eventually the arms of the cross were depicted as declining, forming the composite semaphore signal for the letters N and D (the letters "N" (two arms outstretched pointing down at 45 degrees) and "D" (one arm upraised above the head) of the flag semaphore alphabet representing the words nuclear disarmament), and at the same time suggesting a gesture of human despair against the background of a globe. Eric Austen, who adapted the symbol for ceramic lapel badges, is said to have "discovered that the 'gesture of despair' motif had long been associated with 'the death of man', and the circle with 'the unborn child'". Holton also rejected the image of the dove, as it had been appropriated by the Soviet peace propaganda.
I was in despair. Deep despair. I drew myself: the representative of an individual in despair, with hands palm outstretched outwards and downwards in the manner of Goya's peasant before the firing squad. I formalised the drawing into a line and put a circle round it.
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