Applying Graphic Design to Heraldry: Aggressive vs. Passive Elements

ScaryDeerMay of the Heraldic Devices I draw are straightforward requests like “I want a lion and a boar” or “I want a cat with a book in blue and white.” One of the few real challenges I’ve had was a client who wanted a stag’s head within an “O.” She didn’t like how aggressive the stag in the Pennsic Traceable Art Project looks. The Traceable Art stag is shown on the right.

This stag’s head is designed to evoke aggression, because heraldic shields were originally used to identify their owners on the field of battle. Notice how many diagonal lines it has: the shape of the eyes and brows, the ears, the snout and the neck lines are all jagged diagonals, similar to icicles or carnivore teeth. Even the curves of the stag’s horns are diagonals.

LadyOThe counterpoint to aggressive diagonal lines is using soft circles. (Horizontal and vertical lines are more neutral.) So I doodled some circles, trying to make a stag’s head with as many circular elements as possible.  I made a point of keeping the head and the circle of the horns as equal in size as possible, since the entire head needed to fit in an “O.” If either the horns or the head had greater size, it would make the resulting design seem unbalanced.

Deliberately making an unbalanced design jolts the viewer out of their comfort zone, and is a good way to communicate aggression.


The final version required me to redraw the “O” in a more period font. As per the client’s request, I colored the “O” green and the stag’s head red.


One thought on “Applying Graphic Design to Heraldry: Aggressive vs. Passive Elements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s