History of Peace Corps’ Logo

6 minute read

One of my topics over the couple years that I’ve been at Peace Corps is to look at various entities of the logo of Peace Corps. I’ve had a hand in creating a couple of inter-office branding campaigns, while updating others–so I love looking at the various ways the logo of Peace Corps has changed over the years.

A lot of folks assume that the current flag-dove logo has been a part of Peace Corps since the beginning.

Official Peace Corps Logo

Official Peace Corps Logo

I haven’t dug too deeply into this (I’d love to learn more and update it here!), but researched it a bit over the years.

Fun fact: when I was looking at the history of the Peace Corps page on Wikipedia, the very first commit was in 2002 and said simply:

“The United States Peace Corps was established under President John Kennedy in 1961. In brief, U.S. volunteers work in third world countries, sharing standard of living of natives, and hoping to educate them and bring appropriate technology.”

How times have changed.

The Stamp Era

What we today recognize as the iconic logo of Peace Corps didn’t actually come to exist until 1971, when there was an open call for submissions for a “Peace Corps Stamp” contest – in which David Battle submitted this poster:

1970s David Battle Poster Submission

1970s David Battle Poster Submission

He won runner-up but his design stayed in the minds of Peace Corps officials in Washington.

In 1972, a commemorative stamp was to be issued for Peace Corps, and a modified version of his poster was being used for the design.

Peace Corps 1972 commemorative stamp

Peace Corps 1972 commemorative stamp. Source: Smithsonian Postal Museum

Then in the 1970s, the “Go in Peace” poster refined and solidified the design even further.

1970s Peace Corps poster, “Go in Peace.”

1970s Peace Corps Poster - "Go in Peace". Source: Smithsonian Postal Museum

My favorite part of this story is that Battle himself was never notified about the use of his design as the logo, and found out only when his neighbors were having background checks done on them prior to his invitation to Washington for the stamp’s unveiling. The story is well-chronicled at the Yellow Spring News article. Oops.

The early days of Peace Corps branding

Interestingly, there wasn’t really an official logo or seal in the early years of Peace Corps (that I could find). If you look at things like the Annual Reports to Congress1, you see that there is just bold text (not sure of the typeface) for about five years.

1961 Peace Corps Annual Report Cover

1961 Peace Corps Annual Report Cover

1965 saw a slight deviation though this is from a scanned PDF, so not sure of what more detail would illuminate on this version.

1965 Peace Corps Annual Report Cover

1965 Peace Corps Annual Report Cover

1967 saw this cool little ‘PC Circle’ with 13 stars (not sure why – original posts perhaps?)

1967 Peace Corps Annual Report Cover

1967 Peace Corps Annual Report Cover

1971 goes back to typography (fun fact: this year has a forward by Neil Armstrong!)

1971 Peace Corps Annual Report Cover

1971 Peace Corps Annual Report Cover

The late 70s and early 80s were interesting because Peace Corps was folded bureaucratically into ACTION – along with VISTA and some other agencies (Wikipedia link), so accordingly, any Peace Corps logo would have been down-played in favor of the ACTION logo.

1973 Peace Corps Annual Report Cover

1973 Peace Corps Annual Report Cover

In 1982, Peace Corps became independent of ACTION, but the logo stayed as bold letters.

1982 Peace Corps Annual Report Cover

1982 Peace Corps Logo

The Flag-Dove Era

Finally, in 1984 we see the recognizable circle with flag and doves with Peace Corps across the top—which has remained for the last 30 years—untouched and pristine.

1984 Peace Corps Logo

1984 Peace Corps Logo

Ha ha – just kidding! We had the lonesome dove of 1987:

1987 Peace Corps Dove

1987 Peace Corps Dove

Then the ‘bumpy Earth’ logo of 1997…

1997 Peace Corps Logo

1997 Peace Corps 'Bumpy Earth' Logo

…though to be fair they also used this modified flag-dove logo to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of Peace Corps.

1997 Peace Corps Logo 35th Anniversary Logo

1997 Peace Corps Logo 35th Anniversary Logo

The next years were basically all variations on the flag-dove theme (though I swear it looks like it was re-drawn every single time for every year), until 2006 when the agency had the ‘patch’ logo debut for the 45th Anniversary.

2006 Peace Corps Patch Logo

2006 Peace Corps Patch Logo for 45th Anniversary

Since 2006, the agency has used either the Patch logo–for more public-facing and recruitment materials, or the simpler vector graphic–more for internal/official uses. Of course, there are official use guidelines for these logos as well:

Patch Logo Official Peace Corps Logo
Official and Patch Logos -- Courtesy of Peace Corps Media Library

I’ve talked about the history of Peace Corps’ logo, but I thought that it wouldn’t be complete without talking about some of my own versions over the last couple of years.

I’ve held different roles throughout the agency over the years—everything from coordinating knowledge-management to project management to product development. I’m often asks to come up with presentations or specs which would include the Peace Corps logo in some way, but that would obviously still be in a design phase.

In order to expedite my own process, I keep hammering away at my own .sketch files with the official Peace Corps logo in various iterations:

Peace Corps Logos Artboard

This allows me to create template, churn out silhouettes, and produce derivatives very quickly – like for example the Peace Corps Mosaic and the Peace Corps path gif below.

Peace Corps Animated Sketch

The other thing that this allows me to do is to quickly assess and spruce up some existing assets at Peace Corps without much trouble.

Take, for example, the footer image of the “From the Director” message.

From the Director - Original

In just a few minutes with virtually any vector-graphics program (I used Sketch), you can clean it up to this:

From the Director - Updated

“Now wait a second, Gabriel, that’s all well and good, but doesn’t the updated image take up a lot more size?” Nope. Just the opposite, it’s actually have the file size as the original.

This can be done with favicons too (the little icons in the tab window of a website). These little guys are tough because they are just 16x16 pixels at their smallest, so it often requires hand-drawing them in order to get everything to line up.

The original is on the left, my update on the right.

Favicon - Original Favicon - Updated

OK – that’s pretty tough to see. But it’s there. : )

Last year, I took a stab at creating a little brand that could be used for the ‘cloud pilot’ that the agency engaged in and was used:

Cloud Logo

Then I created the design that eventually got put on all of the coffee mugs used by OPATS. It was actually pretty fun to do, because I had to take the vector images for the various sectors (I didn’t design them), then create icons for the cross-sector priorities (those are mine), and put them all together. The result wasn’t actually terrible.

Overseas Programming and Training Support Mug

Finally, I came up with a high-def version of the Innovation title logo for internal use. I tried to be creative, but landed on this:

Innovation Title

Yet, there will always be a soft spot in my heart for my original attempt:

Innovation Title

And finally…as we enter a new era of creativity and align ourselves with the Maker movement, I couldn’t help but create the first Peace Corps Logo Token and throw it up on Thingiverse.

Peace Corps Token

Peace Corps Token -- I designed this in Sketchup and TinkerCad