In Which I am Quoted

This summer I had a nice telephone interview with Moira Farr, who writes for University Affairs magazine. Her article, “The coat of arms: a university’s iconic brand identity” appeared just now on their website. Here is the important part:

In his essay “Coats of Arms or Logos? Current Graphic Identity by Canadian Universities,” Jonathan Good writes about the ongoing differences between the two camps (his paper is based on the Beley Lecture he gave at the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada annual meeting in May 2014). Dr. Good, a Canadian and associate professor of history at Reinhardt University in Waleska, Georgia, writes:

“In the issue of Heraldry in Canada for June 1981, for instance, the editor railed against the replacement of Montréal’s coat of arms with a logo, claiming that the latter resembled four conjoined toilet seats. On the design blog Brand New in 2009, the editor praised the University of Waterloo for considering a new dynamic logo to replace the coat of arms in everyday use, which he called ‘boring’ and ‘like thousands of other crests [sic].’”

Despite some views to the contrary by those who prefer logos, the design and use of coats of arms are surprisingly dynamic and flexible, as the Acadia example demonstrates. Updating colours, taking elements of an original coat of arms and letting go of others – this is all possible, though rules and protocols still apply. While Dr. Good says he can understand the viewpoint that coats of arms are “elitist and old-fashioned,” he doesn’t ascribe to this view, and he names some universities that have successfully used elements of their original imagery for a more simplified, modern identifier.

“I love to see heraldry in use,” says Dr. Good. “It keeps the medieval Western tradition alive. It’s classy, and there are ways of keeping it fresh. You just have to use it.”

McMaster University, for example, updated its coat of arms imagery in 1997, with a simplified shield design that gives a nod to heraldic tradition but is easier to reproduce in print and electronic form. “That’s a perfectly good way to go,” says Dr. Good. The original coat of arms, designed in 1930 when the university moved from Toronto to Hamilton, Ontario, incorporates fitting symbols, such as books and maple leaves, as well as a stag and oak tree that were the personal symbols of the university’s founder, Senator William McMaster. The university also uses a recognizable logo, and reserves the coat of arms for use by the chancellor and office of the president, on graduation diplomas and other significant university documents.