This issue came up recently when working with a customer that does roof insulating. He wanted to communicate that he uses only recycled materials, and wanted a recycling symbol in his logo. I provided him with concepts that included some circular arrow designs, keeping it abstract, because I was reluctant to use the actual symbol. It somehow felt dirty to me to use such a commonly known symbol in his branding. I feel the same way about the dollar sign (which they also wanted, but I convinced them otherwise).
Turns out, I didn’t need to be too worried. The recycling symbol is in the public domain, which means its available for anyone to use freely for any purpose. It is not trademarked. Local laws may restrict its use if its used deceptively, but otherwise its fair game to use in a logo.
I still try not to use it, because I don’t really like the way it looks incorporated into my design. I much prefer to use my own variation of it. But if the customer really has to have it, I’ll incorporate it. What do you guys think?
It’s always best to take the customer’s request, and get creative with it, so you’re not infringing on any copyright or going back to the same old design ideas. Clients want a graphic design company that will take their ideas and run with it!