The power of symbols to unite was demonstrated again during the terrible events in Paris over the weekend, when the London-based French designer and illustrator Jean Jullien posted his ‘Peace for Paris’ illustration on Twitter and Instagram.

His intuitive, boldly rendered response – a combination of the peace symbol and the Eiffel Tower  – was swiftly embraced across social media by many thousands who wanted to express their solidarity with the French capital.

Throughout history simple drawings and marks have become symbolic of monumental or tragic events – helping people demonstrate their beliefs and linking like-minded individuals.

Such symbols have enabled powerful messages to be shared around the world.

This ‘visual shorthand’ can communicate at a glance things that would take several sentences, pages or even books to explain in words.

We know instinctively what these symbols represent – or can often come to represent- – as they are packed with meaning by the events that transpire.

At their best, signs and symbols can help us perceive, understand and negotiate the world around us in a way that verbal communication can’t.

Described already as one of the first great symbols of the 21st Century Jean Jullien’s illustration of peace and unity has found its way on to flags, T-shirts and posters and become central to demonstrations of  hope, solidarity and support for the people of Paris.

Let’s hope that the thought, hopes and wishes that Jean Jullien tried to convey in his simple illustration comes to pass, and peace does eventually prevail.

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