13th March 2014
In many ways, coats of arms were the forerunner of modern trade marks - how else to distinguish otherwise identical knights-in-armour? An eye-catching design on a shield let you tell friend from foe and so avoid all sorts of potentially embarrassing and ugly scenes, on the battlefield and elsewhere.
And much like modern logos, the simplest arms are the best: the red and white cross of the City of London, the lion rampant of Scotland, the black and white ermine of Brittany.
Simple, bold, eye-catching. Inevitably, once all the basic deisgns were spoken for armigers had to get a bit more creative. And as coats of arms got more popular, they also got busier and more contrived with VIPs adding more and more imagery to try to stand out from each other while also conveying as much of their (self)importance as possible. An increasingly elaborate code evolved in which each and every element of a blazon told a story to anyone who could decipher it. But this often led to rather fussy shields. Even as early as the Wars of the Roses, Warwick the Kingmaker was using this busy design to show off his illustrious heritage:
There’s quite a lot going on there!
BrandSoup was up in London the other day, giving a seminar on trade mark law to some other lawyers, and we noticed these rather attractive stained-glass windows:
Attractive, but arcane. We can recognise the bottom left one as the Corporation of London because it’s still widely used, but the rest? Now lost in the mists of time (unless anyone can enlighten us?). There’s a lesson for brand-owners here. You need to ensure your brand stays identifiable, meaningful and relevant. And, while you’re at it, simple and elegant are also good, otherwise you risk going the way of heraldry and fading into obscurity and obfuscation.
Perhaps the nadir of heraldry’s decline is this monstrosity, which purports to set out the many and varied interrelations of the Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville family. Crazy name, crazy shield! Don’t let this happen to your brand…