Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

US Government | December 2, 1970

This organisation was founded as an independent executive agency of the United States federal government tasked with environmental protection matters. Beginning in the late 1950s and through the 1960s, US Congress reacted to increasing public concern about the impact that human activity could have on the environment. In 1959 congress passed the Resources and Conservation Act to establish a Council on Environmental Quality in the Executive Office of the President and declared a national environmental policy, which required the preparation of an annual environmental report. The groundwork for the Environment Protection Agency was laid.

The 1962 publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson alerted the public about the detrimental effects on the environment of the indiscriminate use of pesticides.

Logo by Chermayeff & Geismar Associates

Steff Geissbühler, partner of Chermayeff & Geismar Associates, about the design process of the 1977 United States Environmental Protection Agency Graphic Standards System:

“Born in the wake of elevated concern about environmental pollution, The United States Environmental Protection Agency was established to unify within one government agency a combination of federal research, monitoring, standard-setting and enforcement activities in order to protect human health and to safeguard the air, water, and land upon which life depends. From regulating car emissions to banning the use of DDT; from cleaning up toxic waste to protecting the ozone layer; from increasing recycling to revitalizing inner-city brownfields, EPA’s achievements have resulted in cleaner air, purer water, and better protected land. That’s how we introduced the project on our project sheet.

I came to the USA from Switzerland in 1967 to teach at the Philadelphia College of Art. It was at first a shock to see trash all over the streets and sidewalks that were littered with chewing gum and cigarette butts, the waste, air and water pollution, pesticide-sprayed fruit and vegetables, and run-down neighborhoods and parks. Richard Nixon, who was later responsible for creating the EPA, was soon elected President. But it was also a time when people all over the world were getting seriously concerned about our planet.

…As the first step, after the extensive audits described in the Foreword, Tom Geismar and myself wanted to shorten the long and complex name to a colloquial acronym. We looked at alternatives but soon understood that the public knew the agency as the EPA and suggested that this should be adapted as a more direct, short and communicative name.

The flower logo or symbol was a carryover from the ’60s “Flower Power” era. I remember very clearly the iconic image of a young hippie girl putting a flower into the business end of a soldier’s machine gun. The center of the existing seal, symbolizing sun, air, water and land, was and is appropriate, but the complex rendition of the flower seemed weak and perhaps too “feminine” to act as the shield of a law-enforcement agency.”

Visit website of Environmental Protection Agency.

This publication is part of Ecosystem City: Lessons from the Forest