The symbol that is most commonly associated with Alcoholics Anonymous is that of a triangle located within a circle. Like many things within AA , it has been borrowed from other sources, most commonly associated with various spiritual and religious traditions.
The AA Symbol.
Quite how and where the symbol started to be used within AA is much debated, but it has become established as a part of AA tradition in different ways.
The symbol is used in different ways, examples of which can be seen here. People often like to have some sort of tangible visual future of AA that by its nature is symbolic rather than actual.
The symbol can be used to highlight AA. Perhaps its most common usage is as a plastic card that is hung on doors and posts to indicate that an AA meeting is taking place somewhere.
At other times the symbol will be used on a piece of hordering or signage to indicate the same thing.
The triangle within the circle is sometimes used to designate the three legacies of AA, those of recovery, unity and service, as spelt out in the 12 Steps, the 12 Traditions and the 12 Concepts of AA.
The AA symbol and trademarking
The AA symbol was widely used within AA and on official AA publications until the late 1980s and early 1990s. There was much debate within AA about its use on literature, sobriety, chips and medallions.
There were also issues about other organisations using the symbol and whether or not it infringed upon AAs trademarks.
In the end, AA decided to stop using the symbol as an official sign, and replace it on conference approved literature simply with the wording ‘ This is AA general service conference approved literature’.
The symbol can still be found in use by individual AA groups, AA chips and medallions, AA birthday cakes etc.
Different varieties of the symbol are also used by other 12 step fellowships, including Al-Anon, which uses an inverted variant of it, a circle within a triangle.