In 1970 Gary Anderson designed the recycling symbol while he was a student at the University of Southern California, and here he shares his story in the FT. The logo gig was a competition, and Gary won $2,000 for the winning design that you now see everywhere. He spent roughly two days on it, which he says now that he's ashamed to admit, but the idea was already floating in his head as he done a graphic that described the flow of water. He improved on his earlier idea with arrows and making it "roll" like a newspaper to make it less two-dimensional. In todays money, he won roughly ten or twelve grand for two days work, which isn't bad.
With respect to the environmental movement, I’ll admit that most of my career has been more focused on paying the bills. But I got my green design certification; so while I’m not the world’s expert, I do my part. It can get frustrating though, in my work, to come up against environmental regulations. Don’t get me wrong; it’s good that we have them. But as my father used to say, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. When things get too codified, it stifles innovation.