Flags, Logos and Heroes
In February 1945, five Marines hoisted the flag of the United States of America on the top of Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima. The moment was captured by Associated Press photographer, Joe Rosenthal, and recounted in the 2006 film, Flags of Our Fathers. Rosenthal’s Pulitzer-winning shot was included in the War Photography exhibit (1993) at the Annenberg Space For Photography in Los Angeles.
Of all the war photos of all time, Rosenthal’s image is perhaps the most iconic, and is particularly significant for me as the mother of a Marine sergeant. Back in October 2006 I went to Parris Island, South Carolina for her bootcamp graduation and EGA ceremony. There, in front of the parade deck, was a life size sculpted replica of the Iwo Jima image. Not only is this image part of the pride of the United States Marine Corps, but it represents the pride of this nation—our heritage, courage and tenacity; our values and character, our hope and determination.
Rosenthal shot many other photos during his career, but out of all his work, this one is remembered. Do you know of Thomas 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.
As I write this, images of the American flag tacked up on ravaged buildings by survivors of a 2013 mega-tornado in Moore, Oklahoma comfort, remind and inspire us.
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 the valor of the heroes and the endurance of the banner and the meaning behind it and where it’s raised and why. It’s the significance of what the banner represents that stirs the heart and wakes 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 in the world has a banner. They 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: what they value, what principles and reputation they intend to raise over the melee of marketing messages in the public square. What will stir the hearts of those 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?
How do you want to 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, to your customers? 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 remembered as easily as the designs I create. Your clients may not remember your name. But they will remember your banner if you raise it high, in the right place, at the right time, for the right reasons.
Enjoy the Memorial Day weekend. And then go be a hero.
by Alvalyn Lundgren. © 2013
Alvalyn Lundgren is a graphic designer, illustrator and owner of Alvalyn Creative, an independent design studio near Los Angeles, California. Contact her for your branding, graphic and web design needs. You can join her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and receive her monthly newsletter.