The G20 nations are meeting in Bali this week. And while we expected political and diplomatic tension given the current geopolitical situation, one thing we didn't expect was a major design controversy. We got one, however, thanks to India's unveiling of its logo for the next G20 summit, which will be held in Delhi in 2023.
India's G20 logo for the Delhi 2023 summit might look inoffensive enough, but it's caused quite a reaction in the host nation. It's all about the iconography used, and a debate over what the lotus flower really represents (for tips on your own designs, see our piece on how to design a logo).
The G20 2023 summit will perhaps be the highest-profile international gathering India has hosted, so the pressure was on to get things right from the outset. The G20 logo shows the planet Earth sitting atop a lotus flower. The world forms the '0' in 'G20', while the 'G2' and the flower are both in a gradient orange and green – the colours of the Indian national flag.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled the logo alongside the website for the summit last week as India prepares to assume presidency of the G20 summit from next month, saying it was a symbol of hope.
The symbol of the lotus in the G20 logo is a representation of hope. pic.twitter.com/HTceHGsbFuNovember 8, 2022
However, the choice of the lotus flower has turned out to be a source of major controversy in India. It's the country's national flower, and the use of seven petals in the design is intended to represent the seven continents (we'll leave aside the debate about how many continents there are for now). That all seems fine so far. But the problem is that a lotus flower is also the symbol of Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
"Why is it the BJP symbol on this ? Are you the PM of India or PM of BJP?" one person replied to Modi on Twitter. Meanwhile, veteran MP Jairam Ramesh claimed the BJP was using the G20 to "promote themselves shamelessly." Some people have gone so far as to suggest that it would have been less controversial to use a swastika – another traditional Indian symbol that now has other connotations.
Over 70 years ago, Nehru rejected the proposal to make Congress flag the flag of India. Now,BJP's election symbol has become official logo for India's presidency of G20! While shocking,we know by now that Mr.Modi & BJP won’t lose any opportunity to promote themselves shamelessly!November 9, 2022
The minister of defence, Rajnath Singh, has defended the design. He said: "The reality is that in 1950, the lotus was declared as the national flower. The government introduced the lotus in the G20 logo because it is the symbol of India’s heritage. During the first freedom struggle in 1857, revolutionaries fought with lotus in one hand and roti in another."
The controversy just goes to show that even the most apparently innocent and universal choices made in a logo design need to be carefully considered. Especially when the brand in question is an entire nation.