A Professional Logo Designer’s Analysis of The Church’s New Symbol
Ok, all joking aside, I was really intrigued by this new “symbol” or logo that was introduced at the Saturday evening session of General Conference.
I can see why they did this though. The Moroni statue has become the de facto symbol of our church in many ways and I think it is consistent with our using the full name of the church to make this visual change as well.
As a professional logo designer, and having studied symbolism quite a bit, I want to weigh in on some of the potential meanings that this new symbol implies.
When President Nelson said “new symbol,” I was expecting something more simple or abstract like the traditional Christian cross or the Muslim crescent, not a detailed rendering of the Christus statue!
My brain immediately went to all of the ways that this would be difficult to render at small sizes, embroidered, silk-screened, embossed, etc. but that’s where my professional mind takes me.
I then set aside my professional lens and let my symbolism lens take over and that is when I saw something very cool.
First, notice the numerical and archetypal structure here. The base is a series of 90-degree angles which implies the square and the number 4.
At the top, you have an arch which implies a circle and the number 1.
The image of Jesus stands appropriately between these two archetypes as a transitional element, between the earthly and the heavenly.
This same configuration is also seen in many of our chapel and temple steeples that feature a square base, a circle at the top or a point (representing the number 1) and an octagon in-between representing the transition from earthly to heavenly via the Christ-centric archetypes that the number eight represents.
This transition between the square and circle was also the inspiration behind the oneClimbs logo that I created for this site.
The square and a circle are obvious, but the negative space creates an implied octagon. It is hidden there to convey the idea the Christ is everpresent in and through all things but only if you have eyes to see.
Consider the following references in regards to some of the potential meanings behind the number eight, visualized by an octagon, both of which point to Christ.
“The octagon draws on the symbolism of the number eight, emblematic of renewal. Eight-sided forms were felt to mediate between the symbolism of the square, representing earthly existence, and the circle (standing for heaven or eternity).”Jack Tresidder, “Symbols and Their Meanings,” 154
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;”1 Timothy 2:5
“[Eight] is a starting-over number and is pervasive throughout scripture…”Val Brinkerhoff, “The Day Star: Reading Sacred Architecture” (Book 2), 68
“Eight-niched soars this temple for sacred ritesInterior inscription for the baptistry of Milan
Eight corners has its font
Right to build this baptismal hall about the sacred number eight
For here the people are reborn.”
Below are just a few of many, many examples that can be observed:
The new church symbol features this ancient pattern but replaces the octagon shape with an image that is unmistakably Christ. I also like the implied light behind the image of Christ that could imply the glory of God the Father, the light of Christ, the Holy Spirit, ongoing revelation, etc.
It is a combination of a variety of styles that actually work nicely together, a blend of the old and the new, a connection between the past and the present.
President Nelson mentioned that the arch reminds of the empty tomb, or perhaps Christ coming forth from the empty tomb. With some of the symbolism we have examined it could also represent Christ coming down from the heavens (circle/1) and returning to the earth. (square/4)
The circle + square + arch motif could even be further simplified into a very basic form but this isn’t a good idea. A very simplified version calls to the mind the empty tomb, but without the context the image of the Savior adds this also resembles a beehive, a gravestone, or the letter D that decided to take a nap!
The more simple a symbol is, the less control you have over how it is interpreted. There are advantages and disadvantages to this depending on how much additional context there is surrounding very simple symbols.
Where there is so much misunderstanding about our people, I think it is better to be exact and specific as to who we are and what we are about. A very simple symbol would be convenient for us but not effective in communicating who we are to the world.
I think the Church got this one right, I like the new symbol and I’m interested to see how it can help further bring the church “out of obscurity and out of darkness.” (preface to the Doctrine and Covenants)