Spot the difference, past vs present, symbols vs signs

UK Coat of Arms – Lithographic rendering date unknown, of numerous renderings

Vector computer drawing

US Great Seal – Lithograph of 1885 design

Vector computer drawing

Australian Coat of Arms – granted by King George V, 19 September 1912

1912 detail

Vector computer drawing

Hearldry is a graphic expression from the past which has contributed to contemporary branding. A somewhat quaint remnant of hearldry is the coat of arms, which now seems to brand a country, province, along with flags and seals.

This post came about from the research process we undertook in making a coat of arms for a new brand. This is not our first coat of arms, and it is always a pleasure to dig around the internet finding work from the past. One is always struck by the eye, skill, detail, quirk and awkwardness loaded in hearldry.

Our latest journey was filled with thrills and disappointment, all centred around the Australian Coat of Arms. One has always admired Australia’s elaborate 1912 rendering of the arms – The scratchy fur and feathers, the Art Nouveau flourishes, and the tangle of wreathed wattle – a complex, confident, yet simple rendering with a distinct sense of place.

We dug a little more and discovered an unremarkable vector rendering (line based drawing), on wikipedia, representing Australia’s contemporary Coat of Arms. What we found was alarming, everything of this new form was troubling (with respect to it’s creators) – it’s a rendering in our option which simply lacks the creative skill and artfulness worthy to represent a prominent country. Thinking that we were generalising, we then compared this outcome with similar official  renderings developed by other countries. After encountering numerous well rendered contemporary coat of arms, we wondered why an innovative country like Australia, with its infinite wealth of creative people, has an administration lacking the foresight to have a contemporary visual in place, which at the very least reflects the values of the 1913 rendering in a contemporary context. We feel that this situation, yet again demonstrates the space in which Australia occupies, in terms of creativity and artistic expression – their are other more important things to worry about like sport, sport, trade.

At this point it is easy to launch into a mad creative person’s rant, so we have taken the liberty to act like any good colonial citizen – we sort reference from distant shores, collected samples, and allowed our readers the opportunity to compare and judge for yourselves.

If your are reading Prime Minister Gillard and Minister Crean – Minister for the Arts, we invite you to compare too. Australia at the very least deserves to have a contemporary coat of arms created by a highly skilled Australian designer / illustrator, worthy of all the innovation, skill and know how that often litters our political soundscape – a new contemporary Coat of Arms for Australia is an opportunity to make a significant cultural gesture for the rest of the world to see.