Announcing the launch of our newest Brandspotting series: Insignia Insights.
As Remembrance Day 2020 approaches in a year no one expected, Trimtag Trading Inc. was inspired to create Insignia Insights. Featuring notable visual identities, our blog will profile the makers, craft and meaning behind centuries of symbolism.
Decoding visual shorthand is what Insigina Insights is all about.
Follow us along this journey of discovery and subscribe to Brandspotting. After pausing on November 11 to honour what our veterans fought for, our first Insignia Insights topic will be the peace symbol created in 1958.
But first, some background:
Making a Mark
Humans have long felt a need to mark territory, property and affiliations. Branding, you could say, has evolved over millennia. Storytelling with pictures was used by ancient and indigenous civilizations the world over. Pinpointing a single origin is not possible, but there are plenty of examples that give us Insignia Insights.
Appearing in many cultures and different materials, early humans painted pictures on Paleolithic caves. Indigenous peoples carved trees into totems. To identify royalty, ancient Egyptians used oval cartouches. Signifying eternity, the two symbols of a King or Queen’s throne and personal names were inside. Understanding these visual symbols helped us to decipher the language of hieroglyphics.
Civilizations like the Aztecs, to ancient Greece and the Orient painstakingly chiseled designs by hand into stone. Because they were made to be long lasting and impressive, early symbols of power were usually reserved for rulers or royalty.
So that is why it is still possible to see some of them today.
This Greek winged goddess of victory, Nike, was carved in marble in the second century BCE. She remains in Ephesus, left in the rubble when the Romans retreated.
Nike’s stylized image continues to be used as a visual identity today. Personifying speed and victory, she appears on coins, sneakers and motorcycles.
That is the first of many Insiginia Insights: staying power!
Insignia Insights: Mass Communication
Replicating symbols to signify quality began on a mass scale in the medieval era. Stamping unique hallmarks into precious coins and metals, silversmiths could reassure their royal or wealthy patrons of their wares. Hallmarks were similar to Egyptian cartouches. Because English craft guilds organized and began recording the maker each hallmark belonged to, we can trace them.
Registering a standardized symbol is the second of our Insignia Insights.
Becoming a mass communication tool also happened by moving on from caves, rocks and trees. That is insight number three. Stamping gold and silver coins and metal expanded circulation. Dipping signet rings in wax sealed many letters. Printing presses put mastheads on newspapers read by more people.
Weaving designs into tapestries and cloth, and hand-stitched embroidery, brass buttons and appliques appeared on flags and fashion. Adorning buildings, doorways, and decor, crests were created in metal, wood, bronze and plaster.
Modernizing and expanding the reach of insignia happened over centuries of creativity. Being made in all sorts of materials is part of the success of insignia as a mass communication tool.
Insignia Insights: Motivating
Insignia Insights will reveal how symbols were used in military ways.
Motivating for millennia, clans and countries created their own for uniforms to rally troops, and flags for all citizens to identify with and salute. Using insignia visually identified members of organizations and the hierarchy of roles within.
Distinguishing one from another is how insignia brings trust, prestige and clarity of purpose wherever it is used. And that is Insignia Insights number four.
Visible insignia continue to be used to identify regiment, rank and service on lapels, chests and shoulder flashes of virtually every kind of uniform you might encounter. Like the Order of the Garter regimental badge on the collar of this Coldstream Guard uniform at the Tower of London.
And this is why we still refer to the boss as ‘top brass’, even if they don’t wear any.
Insignia Insights: Honouring
Insignia Insights will celebrate how excellence is honoured.
Awards of merit are often stamped in metal, attached to ribbons or plaques. They are given as commemorative or service medals for military, law enforcement and citizen bravery. Recognizing exceptional achievements in public service, artistic, academic, sporting and cultural contributions is a role insignia continues to play.
We see remnants of old forms of insignia everywhere: chiseled on buildings, sewn on flags and carved in family crests. Such symbols and hallmarks remain in high demand at antique shows and auction houses for authentication, dating and valuation.
Recognition is Insignia Insights five.
Insignia Insights: Branding
Insignia Insights will show how we see brands today.
The gates to Buckingham Palace were forged in 1908 by The Bromsgrove Guild, known for their Arts & Crafts style ironwork. Holding the gilded Royal Coat of Arms are a symbolic lion (England) and unicorn (Scotland). At the bottom St. George the Dragon is a mythology reference to the monarch at the time, George V.
In your own home, you probably have a little less fancy branded insignia in plain sight. See that badge on the fridge? Find hallmarks in china cabinets and jewelry boxes. There are brands in your closet on the elastic on your underwear, a button, baseball cap or the imprint of your sneaker tread.
Outside, insignia are on the grill of your car, the uniform on the transit driver and on buildings you enter. Brands are on your phone or coffee cup. Logos are on street signs, store awnings, your shopping bag or delivery box, and on the card you used for payment.
If you are like us, you see, wear or carry around branding of some kind every day. Visibility is the sixth on the list of Insignia Insights.
Insignia Insights: Valuing
Insignia Insights will look into the value of branding, and how tradition and evolution both play a role in what an identity is worth. We are not historians or auction experts, but we know authenticity is becoming more important for any brand. Heraldry registries can do this for some insignia but new technology can now make many branded items digitally traceable.
Because more brands are invented daily, all six Insignia Insights elements contribute to the seventh: value. Nowadays, intellectual property rights adds durability, protection and value to any kind of insignia.
Come along on this journey of discovery. Suggesting your ideas for future posts of Insignia Insights is welcome. Sharing is too!
Providing highest quality customized insignia for many of Canada’s most prestigious institutions is what we do. Trimtag Trading Inc. works with all levels of government, including public transit, military, front-line workers and first responders including fire, police and EMS services. As well, we create insignia for non-profit organizations and clubs, along with many companies and institutions which value their brand as an important asset.