Challenging blazon for an auxiliary organization's patch

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Douglas Solberg-Bell
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Challenging blazon for an auxiliary organization's patch

Post by Douglas Solberg-Bell » Fri Jan 15, 2016 2:18 am

Hello all:

A chum from my old Civil Air Patrol days has asked my help in blazoning a proposed squadron patch. I agreed to look it over and offer what help I could, but when I saw just how complicated the design was, I realized that I was out of my league. I don't suppose anybody would like to take a crack at this? The CAP is a USAF civilian auxiliary and does some excellent humanitarian work, so this would definitely be good for some karma points.

Here are some design notes, as I understand them:

1) The design was inspired by that of the 72d Fighter Squadron USAF. The central figure of the original patch was described as "a stylized silhouette of a bird in profile, its upraised wings extending over the border in sinister chief, its claws grasping three lightning flashes, all white;..." The figure in Earl's new design is still to be considered 'a stylized silhouette of a bird in profile,' but it is in this instance grasping a camera.

2) The partitioning is intended to suggest day-and-night mission readiness. The day side features a city skyline in silhouette; the night side, mountain peaks limned in a contrasting Azure to suggest moonlight.

3) The original design was considerably simpler, and was blazoned accordingly. Looking at the source material, USAF chose to use a jumble of heraldic and non-heraldic language (viz. "in sinister chief," "all white"). Earl is hoping for something a bit more dignified and proper than that.

On behalf of MAJ Dryden and his squadron, thank you in advance for any help you can provide in blazoning this patch.

Regards,
Douglas Solberg-Bell

Earl Dryden Sdn patch.jpg
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Chris Green
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Re: Challenging blazon for an auxiliary organization's patch

Post by Chris Green » Sat Jan 16, 2016 6:50 am

This badge is a reasonably OK example of its genre: comic book style. It lacks only "Zooooom ! ! !" to round things off nicely. Heraldry it ain't. There really is no point in trying to shoe-horn this badge into the restrictions of late medieval description. Then there is the use of blue on black, strange partial endorsing, letters and numbers, random black blocks (presumably intended to represent a city skyline) and blue zig-zags that you say are intended to be the outline of mountains, but might equally show the course of NASDAQ on a bumpy day. None of this is heraldry, it's comic book art.

If someone were to manage to blazon this badge, and it's a very big if, and someone else were to attempt to emblazon the badge using that blazon without any reference to the original illustration, the result would be a totally different badge, probably with a natural eagle and mountain and a sky-line quite different to the original. Using the word "stylized" (unknown I think to heraldry) might avoid the use of a natural eagle, but could suggest an heraldic eagle (or an art deco eagle for that matter).

Sorry to be an old fogy, but there are limits to how far heraldic blazon can go, and this badge has boldly gone way beyond them.

Why not urge your chum to get an experienced heraldic artist to design a proper heraldic badge using some of the elements of this one?
Chris Green
President of the International Association of Amateur Heralds

http://amateurheralds.com/

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Michael F. McCartney
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Re: Challenging blazon for an auxiliary organization's patch

Post by Michael F. McCartney » Sun Jan 17, 2016 4:44 am

"Comic book art" is IMO a bit harsh in this case - he can scarcely go back to his CO with that message!

A couple of observations: first, this as an organization tied to the USAF; and it's a badge, not aa traditional (or otherwise) coat of arms. USAF iconology tends to be futuristic (a gentler, kinder way of saying comic book art) and often quite busy by our old city notions - this badge is both.

But I don't think this should bar us, or the unit itself, from creating a reasonably traditional coat of arms reflecting the design themes or elements of the badge. Not as a replacement or even a revision of the existing, officially sanctioned badge, or even necessarily the official blazon; but as an additional, related, but more traditional iconic focus for unit identity and pride. Once we craft an appropriate blazon for the new (derivative) coat of arms, it can be emblazoned in any number of heraldic styles exercising varying degrees of artistic license, traditional or modern or even a bit futuristic.

Some of the blazon is easy -- per bend, eagle and sun (roundel) counterchanged; some more challenging - the skyline and the NASDAC mountains ;)

For the skyline, perhaps a bar or fess debased and embattled grady on the upper edge; and for the mountains, perhaps a bar dancetty. Some color adjustments and/or fimbration as needed to resoect the tincture convention, and you have a blazon for a coat of arms suggestive of - though clearly not identical to - the official non-heraldic badge.

Above all, this needs to be presented in a positive, respectful way - respectful of both the CO, the unit, and the Air Force. A negative "you did it wrong" approach will inevitably provoke a similar response.
Mike~~
Fremont, California

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Chris Green
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Re: Challenging blazon for an auxiliary organization's patch

Post by Chris Green » Sun Jan 17, 2016 7:19 am

Michael:

"Comic book art" is not a criticism, it is a factual description. Lichtenstein's paintings are comic book art, but, like them or not, they are indeed art.

As I read Douglas' post, he doesn't want "a reasonably traditional coat of arms reflecting the design themes or elements of the badge", he wants a blazon of the badge as shown in the illustration. That is not possible, since there are so many elements that are simply not heraldic, and to render them heraldically would radically change the badge's design concept.

If my reasonably extensive experience of the military is anything to go by, Major Dryden would prefer to be told straight out that an heraldic blazon of his squadron badge is not possible, since the design is not heraldic, rather than being presented with a blazon so flawed that it could never be emblazoned to reproduce the original or anything closely resembling it; or in military speak: "the unit is not configured or equipped to conduct the proposed mission". It could also be explained to him that an heraldic version of his badge could indeed be designed, but it would look very different. This is a positive response that the major will understand.
Chris Green
President of the International Association of Amateur Heralds

http://amateurheralds.com/

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Douglas Solberg-Bell
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Re: Challenging blazon for an auxiliary organization's patch

Post by Douglas Solberg-Bell » Sun Jan 17, 2016 8:30 pm

Thank you, Chris and Michael. While I would obviously prefer to be able to tell Major Dryden that the language of heraldry can accurately describe his patch, at least I can relay some advice to him. That advice is going to be that he has a couple of options, to wit:

1) Simplify the design and align it with generally accepted practices, in which case the language exists to properly blazon the badge, or

2) Forget about a proper blazon, since the language is not equipped for this kind of thing, and instead describe it in a fashion similar to the language of the original--which as I noted previously, was a jumble of recognizable blazon and whatever sounded good. The original (72d Fighter Squadron) has the feel of someone who was once exposed to the fundamentals of heraldry and was trying their best to replicate it, but without having a reference work at hand, and instead going off of memory.

The 'blazon' for the 72d's patch still manages to do the job (describe an object in such a way that it may be replicated reasonably well), but it does so chiefly because the 72d's patch is considerably simpler than Major Dryden's design. The language is clunky and inelegant, but it works.

The good news is that a description of the design doesn't have to conform to professional standards, such as would be demanded by bodies such as the U.S. Army's Institute of Heraldry--the design merely has to have an adequate description, not violate some basic design standards, and make it through a couple of approval levels...and it is highly unlikely that the personnel at those levels will have any heraldic background.

I agree that this is essentially 'comic book art.' I designed a squadron patch for another CAP unit about 30 years ago, and would never have dreamed of trying to blazon it using the language that we are all familiar with. It was over-busy, violated tincture rules, and was more of a comic-book panel illustration set inside of an Air Force-pattern shield. And yet it passed through the approval authorities and to the best of my knowledge is still employed by Washington County Composite Squadron #1. Major Dryden's design will no doubt pass through those same levels, and he'll likely end up having to start that process in the same way I did--by writing a description that sounds "good enough." It's either that or return to the drawing-board in the pursuit of a simpler design.

Thanks again, gentlemen. Your advice and perspective will be very much appreciated by Major Dryden, I am sure.

Regards,
Douglas

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Michael F. McCartney
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Re: Challenging blazon for an auxiliary organization's patch

Post by Michael F. McCartney » Mon Jan 18, 2016 4:53 pm

Let us know how it goes!
Mike~~
Fremont, California

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