In 1878, the Eighth Conference of the World Alliance of YMCAs met in Geneva, Switzerland, and had on its agenda the creation of a “distinctive international badge of the Associations.” The matter was turned over to a committee, and three years later at the Ninth Conference in London, the alliance approved the following:
A circle, depicting the oneness of mankind, divided at its outside edge into five segments bearing the names of five parts of the world as they were described at the time: Europe, Asia, Oceania, Africa and America: separated by small decorative scrolls called cartouches “upon which can be read in many languages the initials of our title, YMCA.”
Inside the circle are the first two letters of the word Christ. The Greek letters Chi and Rho (XP) form the ancient symbol that early Christians painted on the walls of the catacombs. It was used by the Y to remind all that Christ was at the center of the movement. Finally an open Bible was added “both because this divine book is the weapon of warfare which St. John gives to young men, and because it’s the distinguishing mark of the great Reformation. The Bible opens on the Savior’s High Priestly prayer, from which we have especially chosen the 21st verse: That they all may be one…as We are one: John 17:21.”
Luther H. Gulick, who revolutionized sports and physical fitness at the YMCA, proposed a red equilateral triangle as a symbol in 1891. It was adopted immediately by Springfield College. The sides of the triangle, Gulick said, stood for “an essential unity: spirit, mind, and body: each being a necessary and eternal part of man, being neither one alone but all three,” a “wonderful combination of dust of the earth and the breath of God.”
In 1896, the logo is simplified and a second ring is added. It is said the second ring represents friendship and love without end among individuals. This remains the Y’s official emblem.
The everyday logo from 1897 to 1967 is the red triangle.
After 70 years of using symbols in various combinations and styles, some felt the need for a change. “We had shaped and reshaped, used and abused our symbol so much that no strong, single corporate identity came through,” said John Root, Chicago’s general executive at the time. He asked a Chicago designer to produce a new logo. The result was the triangle and bent bar that looks like the letter Y. It was a combination of modern design and Gulick’s traditional triangle. When the National Board met in November 1967, it approved Root’s new logo for use throughout the movement.
The year 2001 marked 150 years for the YMCA. The Young Mens Christian Association was founded in London, England by George Williams.
In 2010, the YMCA unveiled a new brand strategy to increase understanding of the impact it makes in communities. This new brand strategy included a new, more forward-looking logo that reflects the vibrancy and diversity of the organization, and a framework that focuses resources on three core areas: youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. The refreshed logo, with its multiple color options and new, contemporary look, better reflects the vibrancy of the Y and the diversity of the communities it serves. The new logo’s bold, active and welcoming shape symbolizes the Y’s commitment to personal and social progress.