Now Accepting Commissions for Heraldic Designs

I’m now officially hanging my shingle as a heraldic designer for Americans who wish to assume their own arms.

I’m also the designer for the Clan Crawford Association’s Armorial Project. The CCA appears to be the first clan association to establish this kind of independent heraldic register.

Since the US has no regulating body for civilian heraldry, it’s important that Americans seeking to assume arms consult with people who know the rules and traditions of heraldry, and are able to bring them into a synthesis that is practical and relevant in an American context.

Heraldry has been an interest of mine for almost forty years. I specialize in making emblems, badges, sigils, seals, bookmarks, coats of arms, and flags.

When designing traditional coats of arms, I obey the principles of good heraldic design: proper usage of colors, simplicity of imagery, etc. My designs are bold and flat because they are symbols, not pictures. They are meant to be immediately recognized from a distance; that was their original purpose.

I like to get a basic family background (country of origin, ethnicity, any heraldic traditions in the family) then get the individual bearer’s personal background (profession, interests, etc) and finally their aspirations or ideals, things that they find symbolically significant. I synthesize all three of these aspects and make emblems that are strong, simple, and lasting.

Basic fee for designing a coat of arms is $300. It includes two rounds of revisions and two files: a JPEG for online use and a PDF for print use. Adapting artwork for a flag is $150 extra. All designs are owned entirely by the bearer, and are able to be resized to suit many uses.

Again, I don’t just do heraldry: if shields and helmets aren’t your thing, and you want something more modern, I also design personal badges and flags.

Contact: allen(at)allencrawford.net.

Loud! Fast! Philly! Interview with David Kessler, Ben Warfield, and Allen Crawford

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Here’s a 90-minute interview conducted by Joe Gervasi (of Loud! Fast! Philly! and Exhumed Films) with me and my cohorts, musician Ben Warfield (member of the Ruins of Friendship Orchestra) and Filmmaker David Kessler, about our five-year collaboration on David’s experimental documentary, The Pine Barrens. In this wide-ranging interview we talk about our individual formative years as young punks/poseurs, as well as our own roles in helping this film become a reality.  (Photo: Karen Kirchoff)

Pine Barrens Film: First Official Trailer

The Pine Barrens – trailer 01 from David Scott Kessler on Vimeo.

For the past four years I’ve been assisting my good friend the brilliant filmmaker and Pew Fellow David Kessler on his atmospheric, oblique, poetic film. Add the beautiful film score by The Ruins of Friendship Orchestra (Benjamin Warfield, Laura Baird, John Robert Pettit, Jesse Sparhawk, and Gretchen Lohse) and you have something that in the decades to come will be revered and cherished–not only as a great collaborative artistic achievement, but also as a lyrical document of a specific place and time that nevertheless transcends itself into dream.

As someone who loves this precious, threatened place, The Pine Barrens is the film I had always hoped someone would make of the Pine Barrens. I will always be in David’s debt for having devoted his considerable artistic energies to it. It’s been an honor, privilege, and joy to play a small part in its fruition. My congratulations to David and the Ruins crew on making this masterpiece happen. Stay tuned for live screenings/musical performances later in the year.

On Heraldry

Once every fifteen years, I get on a heraldry kick. I recently did a quick rendition of the arms of the Crawfurds of Ardmillan (see above), an older branch of House Crawford whose family seat was in Ayrshire (I’m a descendant of an earlier branch of the Ardmillan line, the Baidland Crawfurds).

If you start googling around for examples of heraldry, you’ll see a lot of heraldic illustrators who get caught up in their own facility, like graffiti artists will often do. They’ll often go way overboard with rendering everything, which is counter to the purpose of heraldry. The thing about heraldry is that it’s best when flat: they’re meant to function as symbols, first and foremost. Heraldry looks better when rendered in a bold, graphic style–much like the devices on the shields themselves, which were meant to be immediately recognizable on a chaotic battlefield.

One of my all-time favorite illustrated books is a children’s book of heraldry by Don Pottinger & Iain Moncreiffe, called Simple Heraldry, Cheerfully Illustrated–and it is. Published in 1953, the book is a joy: very informative to those new to the subject. The illustrations are brilliant: the figures are supple and the line work is spontaneous and vital. I could never match it. But the colors–the colors!–are something special: they’re those wonderful British postwar colors that you never see anymore, like royal blue and firecracker red. You want to eat them.

So yeah: one of my favorite things is thousand year-old coats of arms rendered in a mid-century style.

In Defense of “Unreadable” Books

A case for “unreadable” books like mine: “In 2010, psychologists at Princeton University published “Fortune Favors the Bold (and the Italicized),” a study demonstrating that people have better recall of what they’ve read when it is printed in smaller, less legible type. Texts presented in unusual typefaces (…) created “disfluency” in readers, triggering deeper processing and significantly improved retention. When people are forced to stare at something to decipher what it says, it sticks with them.”

Symonds Cider Ads: UK, Ireland

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Spent the better part of May working with the folks at BBH London on a series of print ads for Symonds Founder’s Reserve Cider, which will be running over the coming months throughout the UK and Ireland. It seems that these ads will be inescapable if you use mass transit in Great Britain over the coming summer (My friends in the UK have been sending photos of these train platform ads and billboards, asking me if I had done them, or if someone has been copying my style).

The team at BBH were great to work with, and I thank them for making my job easier throughout the approval process. This project also allows me a significant window of time over the coming months to concentrate on the next books I hope to publish.

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I like working with clients outside the US, because I often find that in many ways, one has much greater creative latitude (I’m fairly certain that there’s no way any agency in the US right now would or could sign off on these illustration-dependent, copy-heavy ads).

BTW: I’m currently seeking representation outside the US, so please contact me if this interests.