In early August, the medical supplies and drug firm Johnson & Johnson sued the American Red Cross over the right to use the red-cross emblem. Most of us had assumed that the red cross, seen on ambulances and first-aid kits, was a universal symbol of succor to the suffering. But like any graphic symbol, the red cross turns out to have more meanings and more history than would at first appear. And the rights to use this symbol are equally complicated—a reminder that many graphic symbols have more complex stories than we expect.
Whose Red Cross to Bear?, by Phil Patton