May '24

Unlocking your heritage: The art of bespoke family crest design

Tom Bradley in Illustration & Branding

Tannis family crest shield whale design by Root Studio

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Have you ever wondered about the stories hidden within your family history?

At Root Studio, we believe that every family has a unique tale waiting to be told and there's no better way to capture it than through a bespoke family crest design.

Family crest design is something that we are regularly asked for from customers all over the world and it’s a chance for our designers and illustrators to get really creative and inject unrivalled symbolism and detail into a single mark.

What is a family crest?

A family crest, also known as a coat of arms, serves as a visual emblem representing the values and heritage of a family lineage. It's more than just a symbol; it's a legacy passed down through generations, encapsulating the essence of a family's identity. It can feature references to national flags, mythical beasts, suits of armour - anything really, so long as it has significance and importance to your family’s identity.

Historically, a coat of arms was a colourful decoration that members of a noble family would use to represent themselves - a real symbol of stature. Nowadays however, anyone can create a family crest to draw upon that history and sentiment to establish a new tradition for generations to come.

Decoding the ‘Heraldry Code’

Behind every intricate crest lies a 'Heraldry Code', a set of rules and symbols steeped in tradition. Colours, shapes (known as ‘ordinaries’) and iconic ‘charges’ such as lions or castles each carry symbolic meanings that enrich the narrative of the crest.

These components include:

  1. Colour - traditionally a combination of five colours - red, blue, green, black and purple. Each colour has a different meaning with red meaning military fortitude, blue meaning loyalty, green = hope/joy, purple = royalty and black meaning constancy.

  2. Background shapes - or ‘ordinaries’ as they’re technically known. This can be horizontal or vertical stripes, diagonal shapes, crosses or chevrons. Again each shape/direction is symbolic of themes such as ‘defence’, ‘military’, ‘honour’ etc.

  3. Foreground shapes - or ‘charges’. These can include stars (military service), rings (strength), diamonds (widow), flowers (nature), castles (safety) etc.

  4. Animals - often birds, lions and deer for example. As you may have already guessed, different animals have different meanings - lions are brave, eagles are noble, dogs are faithful etc. The position of the animal also has particular significance - if it’s looking towards you for example that means that the animal is ‘on guard’.

  5. Mythical beasts - dragons, griffins and such like were also featured within many family crests. These often symbolised attributes such as courage, valour or even sin.

Tannis family crest shield whale design by Root Studio

A modern family crest design

While rooted in tradition, contemporary family crest designs offer boundless opportunities for creativity. Our designers weave together traditional elements with bespoke motifs, crafting unique narratives that reflect the modern family story. Whether it's a nod to ancestral origins or a tribute to cherished traditions, every detail is thoughtfully curated to resonate with the client's vision.

The style of your family crest can also range quite radically from a traditional etching style to a rough linocut or a more minimal, modern interpretation.

Hamira Leicester Tearoom & Restaurant Logo Design

Where can it be used?

Once the design is finalised, it's more than just a logo - it's a versatile emblem ready for use in a variety of situations. From elegant wall murals to timeless shop signage and product packaging, the crest finds its place in both personal and commercial circles.

Essentially, at the end of the process the client receives a ‘logo pack’ containing all the file formats and variations of the artwork that they’re ever likely to need. Designs are created as a vector graphic so are infinitely scalable and alternative ‘small case’ versions are included where appropriate to avoid details getting muddled at smaller scales.

Ready to tell your own story?

If you're ready to take the first step towards creating your own family crest, we're here to guide you every step of the way. Get in touch to discuss which family stories we can bring to the surface in your own bespoke family crest design.

Thanks for reading

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