The Medici's Flexible Visual Brand
While visiting Tuscany recently, we began to notice the Medici coat of arms over doorways and on the corners of prominent buildings. When in color, such as the stained glass windows at the Laurentian Library, the symbol includes five or more red balls embedded in a yellow shield. Typically, the ball at the top of the composition is a contrasting blue ball with three white or yellow fleur de lis. When depicted as architectural decoration in monochromatic sculptural relief, the logo is still legible because of the strong shadows cast by the balls and the idiosyncrasy of the graphic design. The origin of the iconography is not clear, although the most compelling myth suggests that the symbol depicts cannon balls embedded in a shield.
While the center of the emblems are memorable and consistent, the decorative embellishments at the perimeter of the symbols vary from application to application, based on the whims of the artist and/or the particular iconography of each family member. The crown cantilevered above the emblem is my favorite below.
Perhaps the Medici coat of arms is a model for a more flexible approach to visual branding: a strategy that combines a strong core design motif (that works in color, black and white, and sculptural relief) with the flexibility of customization.