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The Happy Human, which remains the symbol of international humanism to this day, was first conceived in response to a competition organised in 1965 by the British Humanist Association – then just two years old. A short piece in Humanist News set out the challenge, offering a reward of five guineas to the person who could convey the spirit of humanism in a simple, reproducible drawing. The winner, whose design ‘was felt to be outstandingly the best’ was artist and window-dresser Denis Barrington, a relatively recent member of the BHA. Announcing the symbol, initially known as the ‘happy man’, Humanist News opined: ‘It is simple, attractive and relevant. Everybody will find his or her own significance for it, for one of its good points is that it is not restricted to one interpretation’. Through innumerable adaptations, and throughout the world, the happy human has remained the central image of humanism, proving well the success of Barrington’s iconic design.

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