Wednesday 25 March 2009

Pseudo heraldry for a new beginning.

Some time ago I reported my sadness at the likely consignment of the arms of Cheshire County Council to the dustbin of history following the demise of that authority which is due to take place at the end of this financial year. It was both a rant and a plea; it comes as no surprise that neither the rant nor the plea had any effect.

On the first of April the two new unitary authorities come into their own; both have been busy in their preparation and, as you would expect, their efforts to impress the world with some form of corporate identity has not escaped my attention.

It seems that both soon to be authorities chose what they considered to be the most economic route to a corporate identity and, probably motivated by a need to ensure that there were no accusations of throwing away yet more taxpayers money, avoided all association with those dreaded, and expensive, “design agencies”. 

Cheshire East, the new authority that replaces the County Council and the Boroughs of Crewe & Nantwich, Congleton and Macclesfield decided to remain “in house” and used its own design team to whittle suggestions down to three options before going out to public consultation. Finally unveiled on the 16th September 2008 their new logo has little to interest the reader of this web log but its owners feel that it is a “fantastic design” with a “professional, clean and smart” look. At least it is honest in that it is simply a logo and makes no pretence to heraldry (which is more than can be said of its new sister authority!).

Cheshire East Logo
I have no doubt that somewhere in the documents which sold the concept of unitary authorities to the powers that be there will be mention of fiscal savings. It is interesting to note that a budget of £250’000 has now been set aside by Cheshire East Council to roll out the new logo across over 200 buildings , 160 play areas and 400 vehicles.

Whilst the new Cheshire East logo has no pretensions to grandeur and thus can be treated as being an honest attempt at branding, the same can not be said of the device adopted by the council set to replace the boroughs of Ellesmere Port and Neston, Vale Royal and Chester District. The new Cheshire West and Chester Council also chose to eschewed any contracts with those dreaded “design agencies” but took an altogether different route and turned the design process into a competition with a prize of £500 to the winner.   After a short list of four was presented to the public for their final consultation, some of which, resembled building society fascias, the newly adopted device for Cheshire West and Cheshire Council was announced on the same day as the one for the other new Cheshire authority.

The logo, designed by City Council employee Chris Hughes, is said to represent the new authority as being “dynamic, forward thinking, inspiring and professional, fresh and innovative”. That it may be - but for me, it simply pretends to be something it isn’t; just like the previous logo of the soon to be extinct Cheshire County Council did.

Cheshire West and Cheshire Logo

I dislike the pretence that is heraldic. Its designer stated that in creating the logo he tried to illustrate the importance of the established icons of the councils that will form Cheshire West and Chester as well as convey a new unity and that all the elements of the logo have a relevance to Cheshire West and Chester.

“The lion is a common symbol in Cheshire, stemming from the mid 1500s and the wheat sheaf motif is carried on the crests of the councils that will form Cheshire West and Chester.”

I will ignore the common misconception that a shield is a crest (groan) and simply point out that the designer has taken elements from historical Cheshire heraldry, thus subconsciously recognising that heraldry has and does play an important part in the identity of Cheshire, and yet has not had the courage to suggest that these elements should be given life in the form of Letters Patent from Her Majesty's Officers of Arms. The new authority can not be congratulated on adopting something which, as a design, purports to be representing the heraldic tradition of a proud county and yet which is not a coat of arms and does not have the authenticity of a grant of arms. What can not be avoided is that it pretends to be a coat of arms but it is not. That is a shame.

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