A Coca-Cola font, the Trajan Column in Rome, and other inspirations have helped create the Church logo.
In April 2020, President Russell M. Nelson announced a new symbol for the Church: a depiction of the well-known Christus statue combined with the name of the Church. The symbol has since been featured on many Church products, including manuals, websites, posters, and more.
This isn’t the first identifier the Church has used. But you might be surprised to know that in the 192 years since the Church was organized, it’s just the third official logo to be produced. Here’s a look at the previous symbols that paved the way to the current design.
The Church’s First Logo
For most of its history, the Church had no uniform symbol. Instead, the Church’s name was printed on plaques, books, and other products in whatever font was available.
According to Randall Smith, who was hired to help develop the Church’s first uniform identifier in the 1970s, the Church tasked its graphic design team with producing a standardized “welcome” sign to be placed in front of the Church’s chapels.
This first team of graphic designers tossed around several ideas for a logo, including incorporating the angel Moroni, the Salt Lake Temple, and yes, even the Christus. In the end, however, it was decided to use just the Church’s name as the graphic.
Thus the first Church “logo” was born—although it is more properly called a “wordmark” or “logotype” because it was made up of words only, with no other graphical elements. The text was set in a font called Signet, a popular typeface designed in the 1960s. A bold version of Signet was even used in the logo for Coke.
Soon the wordmark was being printed on much more than the “Visitors Welcome” signs on Church buildings. It was used to identify almost everything the Church produced, and its ubiquity made it a very familiar sight for Church members. The wordmark was specially designed for over a dozen languages within a few years.
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More Focus on Jesus Christ
In the 1990s, Church leaders decided to revamp the Church’s identifier, desiring more emphasis on the name of Jesus Christ. McRay Magelby, who at the time was BYU’s creative director, said that the goal was to create something that was more legible, less corporate looking, and had a more “warm, friendly, inviting feel.”
“Graceful curves make it more approachable than a fancier type,” Magleby said. “We wanted it to look non-designed—as it might appear on a building at the time of Christ—rather than modern.”
The Church tested different versions that separated the name of the Church into several lines of text—even up to five separate lines—but ultimately decided on three, with Jesus Christ’s name appearing in larger text on the central line. This logo was released in 1995.
The font for this logo was custom designed by a well-known typographer, Jonathan Hoefler, and named “Deseret.” It was based on the letters found on the famous Trajan’s Column in Rome. The letterforms in the name of the Church of Jesus Christ therefore date back almost to the time of Christ Himself.
The new logo design lended itself relatively well to being translated into many languages, although in many languages the logo takes up four or more lines of text. Over a decade ago, the Church reached the milestone of having the wordmark in 100 languages.
In April 2020, President Russell M. Nelson announced a new “visual identifier” for the Church, in harmony with his previous calls for the correct use of the full name of the Church. President Nelson said the symbol would help “remind all that this is the Savior’s Church and that all we do as members of His Church centers on Jesus Christ and His gospel.”
Along with the Church’s name in a wordmark, the new symbol incorporates an image of the Christus statue as had been considered when the first logo was created in the 70s. The English wordmark itself is almost identical to the previous version, except that font sizes have been adjusted so that all three lines align on the left and right sides.
The changeover to the new logo affected missionary name tags, and for a time some sisters and elders had the older wordmark on their tags while others had the newer one.
President Nelson described the symbol as including the name of the Church contained within a cornerstone, surmounted by the Christus, “reaching out to embrace all who will come unto Him.” Christ stands under an arch, a reminder of His emerging from the tomb.
The symbol has been designed in several versions with varying degrees of detail, depending on how large the symbol will appear—the smaller the symbol, the less detail it can contain. The largest version, called “high fidelity,” features fine details in Christ’s face and robe. This version is used when the symbol is printed at a large size.
According to graphic designer David Collier, the large logo uses stippling (small dots), hatching (parallel straight lines), and cross-hatching (crossing straight lines) to add texture and shading to the Christus. The techniques might seem familiar: they’re used in portraits on American paper currency and are rooted in old printmaking techniques.
Smaller versions of the symbol, like those used on social media or smartphones, contain much less detail.
According to the General Handbook, section 38.8.8, “The Church’s wordmark and symbol are to be used only as approved by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. They may not be used as decorative elements. Nor may they be used in any personal, commercial, or promotional way.”
According to Collier, creating an identifier like the Church’s “can be an incredibly rewarding and revelatory experience full of meaning. In reality, branding is a belief system. It’s about creating a system by which your audience can identify and relate to you. Can your audience believe in what you are trying to say? A symbol is just a small part of that system, but an essential one nonetheless.”
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