The peace sign was created in 1958 by British graphic designer and Christian pacifist Gerald Holtom. Holtom was tasked with creating the banners and signs for a nuclear disarmament march in London, and he wanted a visual that would stick in the public's mind.
The design is, in part, modeled after naval semaphore flags that sailors use to communicate. Holtom combined the codes for "N" (two flags angled down at a 45 degrees) for "nuclear" and "D" (one flag pointed straight up and one flag pointed straight down) for "disarmament." But in a 1973 letter to the editor of Peace News, Holtom suggested the inspiration was also darker and more personal.