UNICEF: History of a logo
From a child drinking milk to a parent lifting up a child: Discover how our logo has evolved over the years.
UNICEF is created by resolution 57(I) of the United Nations General Assembly on 11 December 1946 to provide supplies and assistance to children after World War II. Originally known as the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF starts as a temporary relief fund of the United Nations. As such, it is entitled to use the UN logo.
In October 1953, the United Nations General Assembly extends UNICEF’s mandate indefinitely to assist vulnerable children. As a UN agency with a distinct mandate, UNICEF develops its own visual identity.
UNICEF’s first logo features a child drinking a cup of milk, which reflects the organization's main activity at the time: delivering milk to children. This logo retains some elements of the UN logo, on which it is based, such as the olive branches and globe in the background. ‘A child drinking milk’ becomes the symbol of UNICEF.
As UNICEF’s focus expands to include the wider needs of children, the organization’s logo changes as well. In the 1960s, ‘a child drinking milk’ is redesigned as ‘a mother lifting up a child’. This is also linked to the UN adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959, which defines children’s rights to protection, education, healthcare, shelter, in addition to good nutrition.
The universal gesture of a mother lifting up a child symbolizes the hope, security and joy that UNICEF’s work gives to parents and their children. This gesture evokes parents’ energy and enthusiasm, which reflects UNICEF’s optimism and the results we seek to deliver for every child.
A standard global logo is issued, which retains the ‘mother and child’ emblem as the dot on the ‘i’ of ‘unicef’. This is the first version of the UNICEF logo to be registered with the World Intellectual Property Organization.
While the key elements of the 1975 logo are retained, the typeface is revisited to align with some prevailing visual trends of the time.
In 1986, coinciding with UNICEF’s 40th anniversary, the logo changes again: the typeface becomes Futura bold and the colour goes from black to PMS Reflex Blue. UNICEF issues The Identification Graphic Standards Manual, the organization’s first Brand Book.
The logo features UNICEF’s name, in lower case and heavy typeface, alongside the ‘mother and child’ emblem. The design approach is aligned with the Swiss Style of the time, minimalist in nature. This logo is seen as clearer compared to previous versions, lending itself better to universal recognizability and clarity.
In 2001, the UNICEF logo as we know it today is introduced ─ along with guidelines for its use on multiple platforms. The colour is changed from PMS Reflex Blue to PMS Process Cyan. The undiluted colours of the new UNICEF brand colour palette (cyan, yellow, pink and violet) are meant to evoke the vibrancy of children.
The logo is stylized and simplified. The ‘mother and child’ emblem is modernized to reflect a more generic figure.
UNICEF’s tag line becomes ‘unite for children’. Previously, this call to action had been used for UNICEF’s campaigns, in addition to ‘unite against AIDS’ and ‘unite for peace’.
The transition of ‘unite for children’ from a campaign tag line to the brand signature emphasizes UNICEF’s advocacy role in support of the Millennium Development Goals and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. ‘Unite for children’ communicates how the organization brings partners together across sectors to achieve results for children.
In 2016, ‘for every child’ is adopted as the organization’s brand strategy and becomes part of the logo. ‘For every child’ echoes UNICEF’s universal mandate to protect the rights of children everywhere – and embodies the organization’s mission to give greatest priority to the most disadvantaged children.
Modularity is a key component of this new logo. ‘For every child’ is just the first half of the brand statement. The second half includes words that showcase the scope of UNICEF’s work. For example, ‘for every child, hope’, ‘for every child, opportunity’, and ‘for every child, dignity’. This logo enables us to highlight the challenges children face, as well as the hopes we have for them.
Research and writing by Martina Tomassini and Ruthia Yi.