What the medieval knights can teach us about logos and colour .
We’re fast approaching the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. This Great Charter was sealed by King John in front of his barons in the marshy fields of Runnymede on 15 June 2015. On that day the first seeds of democracy were sown, an incredible legacy from a remarkable reign.
These medieval barons and knights understood so much which still has resounding relevance today. In the pressure they brought to King John in the ultimate of ultimatums they understood about the need for power, justice, recognition, individual identity and within that the use of symbols and colour. All of this mattered in the medieval world and was reflected in heraldry.
The origins of heraldry can be traced back to Geoffrey Plantagenet the father of Henry II the first Plantagenet king who was in turn the father of King John. When Geoffrey died in 1151 his burial was depicted with him holding a shield of gold lions painted on a blue background. This is widely agreed to be the first coat of arms.
From this point heraldry was born and coats of arms were designed for families, guilds, institutions and of course the crusades. These coats of arms are rich in symbolism and every single part of the design has meaning packed into it. The colours selected were reflections of core values and passions held dear and they were colours that communicated their connotations.
Literacy levels were low and colour was a powerful way to get a reaction. Coats of arms were understood from the shapes, the segments, the use of animals, the materials that were used but above all from the colours. In a way these fabulous coats of arms were early forms of logos and just as much thought was invested in them.
The medieval significance and understanding of colour is echoed today in the meanings of colours which prompt an emotional response and are widely used in the corporate world. These colours with their heraldic interpretations still carry much of the same meaning 800 years on:
Black – wisdom and authority
Gold – generosity and glory
Purple – justice and sovereignty
Red – victorious and strong
Silver/White – peace and sincerity
Orange – ambition and trustworthiness
Green – hope and joy
Blue – truth and loyalty