Centuries of human experience have turned the ♥ symbol into the design gem that it is today. Like love itself, it’s hard to say exactly when or where it first appeared, but there have been some pretty convincing theories.
Heart-like symbols have been found on the walls of old caves and etched into ancient artifacts dating as far back as the New Stone Age, but they were most likely just depictions of ivy or fig leaves, which closely resemble the heart shape we know today.
In the city of Cyrene circa 200 AD, a popular form of birth control was Silphium, a plant with heart-shaped seeds. It was such a big deal that they put the heart-shaped seeds on their currency. Perhaps the symbol’s association to sex eventually led to its association with love.
One of the earliest appearances of the heart as a symbol of love was in an illuminated letter in the medieval French text “Romance of the Pear.” It was during the Middle Ages that the heart symbol really took off, appearing in religious art like depictions of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The lack of knowledge about human anatomy at the time meant people had no other basis for what the human heart actually looked like (and even when we finally did find out, the symbolic ♥ was already too popular—and perhaps, too cute—to replace).
The 1977 I Love New York campaign had Milton Glaser’s famous logo substituting the word “love” with a ♥, similar to the way it is used here on i heart miri. Except here we really just say heart instead of love—same thing.
It’s a symbol that has appeared on everything from my high school geometry notes and my resumé to my bathroom mirror, my hip flask and, eventually, my own skin. Now that I think about it, it’s my very surface-level way of saying that love, my guiding principle, is everywhere.