Friday, June 15, 2007

Create a Coat of Arms: Design Ideas

The absolute best part of creating your own coat of arms is choosing what to put on it. This is where you get to play with ideas and dream. There are a number of things to consider when creating a coat of arms so let's go through them one by one.

  • Choosing the style for your coat of arms. In a previous post we looked at an example with the various parts labeled. That was a pretty elaborate coat of arms. Do you want something similar or something simpler with less elements? Will this coat of arms represent just you? your immediate family? all your family members with the same surname? You may want to create different versions... no reason why you can't!
  • Choosing colors for your coat of arms. You have lots of options when it comes to colors... favorite colors, college colors, ethnic colors (flag colors from your ancestral country), patriotic colors (good old red, white and blue!), the possibilities are endless. The coat of arms shown with this article is one I created using 4 colors (maize, blue, green, white) representing the universities that members of the family have attended (University of Michigan, maize and blue; Eastern Michigan University, green and white; Wayne State University, green and gold (maize); and Michigan State University, green and white). The colors work well and balance well with 2 medium-dark colors and 2 light colors. Keep in mind that the shield will be the focal point so you want to highlight it for the most impact and use accent or complimentary colors in the mantle, ribbon, and banner if you include those elements.
  • Choosing symbols for your coat of arms. The best way to do this is to just sit down with a pencil and a pad of paper and brainstorm ideas that come to mind when thinking about yourself, your family, or your surname, depending on who you are designing the coat of arms for. Here are some ideas to get you started... hobbies, careers, surname meanings, religious symbols, volunteer organizations, country of origin flags, nature, and pets. Think about where you live, what you like to do, and what you value and those things will generally represent you and yours well. If you've researched your family and you know the history you may want to include images from past eras too! For the example above I chose a graduation cap and laurel branches to symbolize education (all the children in the family have attained at least a Bachelor's degree), Henry Ford in his Quadracycle to symbolize Ford Motor Company (strong family tradition of working for FMC), a fleur-de-lis to symbolize the Boy Scouts (all the sons became Eagle scouts), and a cat because it is the family's favorite pet... everybody has one!
  • Selecting the best symbols for your coat of arms. Sometimes this can be the most challenging part of designing a coat of arms... deciding which symbols to keep and which to eliminate. How many should you use? It's up to you but here's a good design rule to keep in mind: less is more. One symbol sends a stronger visual message than two. Two are stronger than three, etc. The more symbols you use, the less impact any one of them will have. However, the more symbols you use the better you will represent the facets of yourself or your family. So the key here is to not get carried away with a dozen symbols representing everybody and everything but select just a few symbols that mean the most.
  • Getting others involved in the design process for your coat of arms. You don't have to create the design all by yourself you know. It could be a fun family project to have your kids draw a shield with one image they think best represents the family and then combine the images into one coat of arms. Or here's another idea... make a list of several images that represent your surname and ask everybody at your family reunion to vote on the one(s) they think represent the family best. If others are involved in creating the design they're likely to take more pride and ownership in the finished product!
This is your chance to really get creative with your genealogy so don't rush through this stage. Take your time, play with images and ideas in your mind, and have fun!

Coming up next: Create a Coat of Arms: Design Considerations

Other posts on this topic:
Why You Need to Design a Coat of Arms for Your Family
Dissecting A Coat of Arms Achievement

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