COATS OF ARMS or LOGOS


by Daniel Cogné and John J. Kennedy

Associate Members of the Académie internationale d'héraldique
In spite of the establishment of the Heraldic Authority; the wave of logos adopted by municipalities and public institutions continues to swell. Many see this development as a cultural and social phenomenon analogous to the rise of heraldry in the early twelfth century.

Is the popularity of logos an insult to traditional heraldry? For several experts in the visual arts, coats of arms are both outmoded and esoteric. The complex blasonry, scarcely accessible to the ordinary citizen, does not permit arms to truly play the role of identifying marks in a society where speed and efficiency are valued. Scandinavian heraldists have, successfully it seems, met this challenge by designing striking simple arms with distinctive charges and one metal one colour. External supporters, compartments et al., often overly laden with symbolic weight, too complex for both artist and viewer, have been dropped. This renewal of the classic good taste of medieval heraldry is most welcome. It frees these European heraldists to effectively combat the municipal and public adoption of logos. Scandinavian municipalities and counties use their arms to mark road signs, civic properties in a colourful and useful way. Let us hope Canadian heraldic designers will learn from the Scandinavian experience.

Yet, we need not be naive! The creation of logos does meet a genuine need that fits perfectly into our fast-paced society. It will not disappear in spite of our efforts. Only a bold, original heraldry could effectively counter contemporary graphic creations. The future will tell us if Canadian heraldists will be capable of taking this challenge and conquering the hearts and minds of the directors of our public institutions so that a rejuvenated heraldry can play an important role in the society of the twenty first century.


(Reference: Heraldry in Canada/L'héraldique au Canada, December 1992)


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