Symbols, emblems, logos, flags, pennants, coats of arms, badges…What do these words have in common?
Each defines a type of graphical representation of a thought, ideal or allegiance:
- We wave an American flag to show that we are citizens of the United States of America.
- A policeman shows you his badge to prove he has the authority and responsibility to investigate illegal activities and offer assistance to people in distress.
- A knight from the medieval times carried a decorated shield for protection and to show who he was, his rank, and whose army he belonged to (his coat of arms or herald).
- Sailing ships fly “ensigns” or flags and pennants to show who they belong to and to communicate messages over long distances.
In business, corporate logos are used to not only name the organization (and distinguish it from all other similar businesses) but to tell us something about their products, services or “brand”. These images are carefully designed to convey meaning and to influence our feelings about that organization. Sometimes this is very subtle – like how certain shapes or colors are selected, and sometimes it is very obvious like using the shape of the product in the logo design.
Symbols used in clubs and other organizations typically convey meaning to their members in other ways – much like ancient heraldry. For instance, the Christian Service Brigade logo consists of a: shield, sword, torch and open bible. Each component has meaning:
- The brigade shield is meant to symbolize the motto “Bright and Keen for Christ”
- The torch for Bright – passionately living for Christ (joyfully, obediently, confessing sin while pursuing sanctification),
- The sword for Keen – knowledgeably speaking for Christ (serving others, sharing the gospel message openly, being prepared to offer a detailed defense of what we believe and why we believe it),
- The open Bible for Christ is the Word (Jn 1:1) and whom we serve!
As leaders and participants in the program, we ought to remember the meaning of these symbols and what the remind us to do or how to live our lives.
Our design incorporates:
- a shield (for defense),
- two swords (behind the shield — to be used only if we’re first attacked);
- our unit number and a unit cheer – “Call on the Lord” as a reminder of our unit verse – Psalm 18:03 “I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.“
Other organizations use symbols that have specific meanings, too. Boy Scouts of America use a symbol to denote a “First Class Scout” (one who has mastered essential outdoor skills and is fully prepared to spend extended time on adventure):
In the background is a trefoil or fleur-de-lis which symbolizes the North point on a compass or map. It always points up and indicates true North. The three parts of the trefoil remind the scout of the three parts of the Scout Oath (duty to God, duty to others, duty to self). The two stars represent truth and knowledge. The eagle and shield stand for freedom and a Scout’s readiness to defend that freedom. The scroll bearing the Scout motto is turned up at the ends as a reminder that a Scout smiles as he does his duty. The knot at the bottom of the scroll serves as a reminder of the Scout slogan, Do a Good Turn Daily.
Various awards, medals and symbols of achievement have their own meanings, as well. When you discover a logo, icon, or symbol within the program, ask a leader about it’s meaning and function. Chances are that understanding the meaning behind the image will give you insight into the program and what we’re all trying to learn.