How We’re Remembered: Memorial Day 2011

Sculpture at Parris Island MRD, North Carolina
Sculpture at Parris Island Marine Recruit Depot, North Carolina

Memorial Day is the U.S. holiday that for many marks the beginning of summer. School is ending for the season and it’s time to play. For me, it’s a day to think of heroes, courage and honor, and to remember that people gave up their lives so that we can play in our summer seasons.

One of my heroes is my daughter, now a Marine sergeant, who graduated boot camp several years ago at Parris Island, NC. When I went to her graduation I saw a sculpted replica of the Pulitzer-winning photograph by AP photographer, Joe Rosenthal. His image of the American flag being raised atop Mt. Suribachi in 1945 quickly became an icon. Not only is it part of the pride of the United States Marine Corps, but it represents the pride of this nation—our heritage, hopes and future; our values and character. Rosenthal shot many other photos during his career, but out of all his work, this one is most remembered.

Do you know of Thomas E. Franklin? He, too, shot a world-famous photograph of another American flag being raised—this time over American soil by a trio of New York City firefighters on September 11, 2001.

There’s something about the raising of a banner by heroes that attracts attention. And it’s not just the raising of the banner, but its endurance, and the valor of the heroes and the meaning behind it and where it’s raised and why. It’s the significance of what a banner represents that stirs the heart and wakens the imagination; that compels heroes to lift it high in the midst of a battle.

We follow banners. They stir us to action. They make us proud. They identify us.

Practically every business, organization and government has a banner. These are raised in the form of logos, motifs, icons and flags. We wear them and put them on our car bumpers and on signs and travel mugs. Every banner represents something—an identity, a set of values, a reputation, a history. Every banner has a loyal following.

You might think that the first thing I deal with in designing a client’s “banner” is the aesthetics—how it looks. But no. I look at the client’s identity: the values, principles and reputation they intend to raise over the melee of marketing messages in the culture. What will stir the hearts of the people the client is trying to reach? What will endure? Then, how to represent that. What heroes will carry it? How will my client be remembered?

A logo is no more a mere graphic than the American flag is simply a piece of fabric. There is so much more involved. What does your logo mean to you? What does it mean to your employees and your customers? How do you want to be remembered? Are you heroically raising it in the midst of your battle? Are you persevering?

Joe Rosenthal and Thomas Franklin are not as memorable as the photos they created. I don’t expect to be as memorable as the designs I create. Your clients may not remember your name. But they will remember your banner if you raise it high. Go be a hero.

Alvalyn Lundgren

Alvalyn Lundgren is the founder and principal of Alvalyn Creative, an independent consultancy providing brand strategy design and bespoke illustration for more than 30 years. She is the creator of Freelance Road Trip — a business school and podcast for creative freelancers. She teaches design and design practice on the college level with design schools and programs.