Sunday, January 13, 2008

Today's heraldry

click photo to enlarge
I've always liked heraldic devices. As a child I used to be fascinated by the arrangement of shapes, symbols and colours. I know something of the history of heraldry, and how it has developed, but it's really the graphic design of it that interests me. Heraldry and its devices continue in a small way today, of course, but it's now largely the preserve of large organisations and those who want to feel separate from the masses by associating themselves with these ancient tokens of status.

Today's living heraldry is in fact found in the logotypes that modern businesses use to market themselves. And, like their antecedents, the designs are not immutable. Many logos slowly evolve over the years, adopting the styles that are current, then morphing again when fashions change. It's illuminating to look at the evolution of the logos of, say, Ford, Coca-Cola, BP or Barclays down the decades. The overarching rule is one of complexity being reduced to simplicity over time, though sometimes firms do step back to a more ornate, "older" looking design. Some logos are wonderful pieces of graphic design encapsulating the essence of the organisation they represent with a few strokes of the pen. My particular favourite is that of the now defunct electronics company Plessey, whose logo both spelled out its name and suggested an oscilloscope display!

I took this photograph of the current Royal Mail logo when I came upon one of its new buildings, clad with gleaming, highly reflective metal, surrounded by newly planted trees, in Boston, Lincolnshire. As a logo it's competent without being inspirational, the worst part being the chosen font. However, the splash of red seemed a good focus for the flawless background overlaid with the imperfect lines of the tree and its reflection.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 77mm (154mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/3200
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: Off