I’ve been reading the riveting book Going Clear in advance of the HBO documentary of the same title. Going Clear is a relentlessly damning account of Scientology’s founder and principles. I love to study symbolism and branding, and while I was reading, I wondered, “Does Scientology have a logo?” I hadn’t recalled ever seeing one. Since they identify as something of a hybrid religion and scientific institution, I wasn’t sure whether to expect a religious symbol or a corporate logo from the organization. Upon further investigation, I discovered that Scientology has more symbols than Steven Tyler’s got scarves. Here is a design and symbolism critique of what I found during my research.
This symbol is an ‘S’ (for Scientology, of course) that interlocks with two triangles. According to Scientology, the upper triangle is the KRC triangle, representing knowledge, responsibility, and control. The lower triangle is the ‘ARC’ triangle, representing affinity, reality, and communication. Sounds like a bunch of arbitrary nouns that you might choose if you were inventing a religion and trying to imbue a symbol with knowledge-y gravitas, right? The church’s website explains ‘affinity’ thusly: “Without a degree of liking and some basis of agreement, there is no communication.” On the contrary, I think it’s of the utmost importance to communicate with someone even if you don’t like them – perhaps especially if you don’t like them. But let me stick to design.
I have to admit that this symbol is visually attractive – it looks like what Superman would wear on his chest if he were in ancient Greece (the triangle is the Greek letter Delta). The symmetry is pleasing and the metallic shimmer might hypnotize someone who is easily spellbound by shiny objects. It’s hard to overlook the Registered Trademark icon there – the ever-present reminder that what you are looking at is a legally protected corporate logo and not an ancient symbol of a shared heritage. [Read more…]