Analyse the Similarities and Differences Between Contemporary Corporate Visual Identity and Traditional Heraldry. Be Sure to Take Into Account the Similarities and Differences Between Modern and Medieval Organisations.

Topics: Heraldry, Logo, Coat of arms Pages: 8 (2772 words) Published: December 17, 2012
1.0 Introduction
Traditional heraldry and contemporary corporate visual identity (CVI) are the two systems that communicate the idea of identification. Identification is not only for modern world, as far back as during medieval ages, identification already started in the form of heraldry. Traditional heraldry uses different design approach but mainly is to communicate identity. Even though both identity systems exist in two different eras, they share the similar purpose, which is mainly to identify. Moreover, designs and symbolism also play an important role on identification. For example, the McDonald’s Golden Arches logo (Figure 1), which resembles an “M” for “McDonald’s”, is a famous logo that can be easily recognized. There are some design elements commonly applied in both identity system such as symbols, colours, shapes and various representations of images. Thus, traditional heraldry and CVI can be compared according to their design elements. Both systems can be different and similar from the symbols of design, which application is different due to various situations. This essay aims to analyse the similarities and differences between CVI and traditional heraldry of modern and medieval organization from the perspective of designs, functions and symbolism.

Figure 1: McDonald’s Golden Arches logo

2.0 The roles and design of identity system

2.1 Traditional heraldry
According to Frutiger (1998, p. 318), heraldry derives from the herald, which is the messenger or proclaimer who in medieval times often functions as a diplomat. Their costumes bore witness to their membership of a group or sovereign power by their appearance, so that they would distinctly identifiable from the enemy camp. One of the earliest evidence of heraldry design comes from King Henry I of England, who placed a coat of arms around the neck of his son-in-law Geoffrey V in 1127 while knighting him. Heraldry started to appear throughout Europe between the years 1135 and 1155. During the late 12th century, heraldry have been prevalent in Germany, France, Spain, and Italy, and imported into England by the Normans. As the Middle Ages rolled on, heraldry became an important part of being a knight. A coat of arms became a requirement for knights who wanted to participate in elaborate tournaments, essentially serving as their logos. This is because when soldiers were on a battlefield, they covered head to foot in armor for protection. This would have looked very similar and it could be very difficult to distinguish between a teammate and an enemy. Thus, heraldry served as a identification which designed in a pattern or symbols.

Figure 2: Heraldry costume of a knight

Traditional heraldry often uses images from nature incorporated into coats of arms (Frutiger, 1998, p. 321). The uses of any object for figure on a heraldic design is refer as a charge (McDonald & Duncan, n.d.). Charges can be animals, objects, or geometric shapes. The most frequent charges are the cross, lion and eagle while dragons, unicorns, griffins appear as supporters (McDonald & Duncan, n.d.). For example, the Royal Arms of England in Figure 3 and the Coat of Arms of Finland in Figure 4 uses lions on a traditional heraldic design.

Figure 3: Royal Arms of EnglandFigure 4: Coat of Arms of Finland

Lions are a common symbol of English sovereigns in heraldic art (Venefica, 2007). This is because the lion is the king of jungle. Similarly, the royal families have the highest status in a country so undoubtedly lion become the best symbol of representing royalty. In this case, the Royal Arms of England and Coat of Arms of Finland used lions too, which symbolize leadership, royalty, nobility, courage and power.

2.2 Contemporary corporate visual identity
During 1960s and 1970s, corporate identity began to become a necessity for all corporations (Flask, 2011). The industrial revolution made way...

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Frutiger A. (1989) Signs and symbols: their design and meaning. UK: Studio Editions p. 235-236, 318, 321
McDonald J. and Duncan S. (n. d.) International heraldry and heralds [Online, accessed 26 Nov ember 2011] Available:
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