How The Change To US Quarter Symbolizes The Evolution Of Logo Designs

by Mike Jansen

Did you notice something unusual about the US quarter this year? Well, if you have not, then taking a look at the image above can help you. The portrait of George Washington in the quarter flipped right.

According to a survey conducted by the US Bank of more than 2000 Americans, 50 percent of participants revealed that they only carried cash half the time they went out. The survey further found that when the respondents carried cash, more than 76 percent had less than $50, and almost half had less than $ 20. While it is true that Americans carry less cash on average, the significance of the latest quarter makeover cannot be undermined.

Before we shift our attention to the latest change in the US quarter and how it symbolizes the evolution of logo designs in America, let us look at another aspect of the most powerful currency in the world.

In an article titled, “Is the International Role of the Dollar Changing?,” Linda S. Goldberg, Vice President, International Research Function of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, mentions:

“A change in the dominant role of the dollar in world markets would have consequences for the currency issuer and users alike. The dollar’s international status helps insulate the US economy from foreign shocks, reduces transaction costs in trade and finance and contributes to the international transmission of U.S. shocks and monetary policy effects.… Furthermore, dollar banknotes—physical bills of different denominations—used abroad provide some foreign households and businesses with a more stable store of value and sounder transaction currency, especially during periods of turbulence overseas.”

American Women Quarters Program

The U.S. Mint will celebrate American women who have positively impacted the country. The U.S. Mint will release up to five quarters each year from 2022 to 2025 under the American Women Quarters Program.  The U.S. Mint mentions the following on its official website:

“Each reverse (tails) will honor a different woman and her impact on our country. The women will be from a variety of fields and have diverse backgrounds.”

Good read – Graphic designer: what skills and habits should you acquire? 

The change

The portrait of George Washington, the first president of the United States of America, faced left since the quarter first came into circulation in 1932. Fast forward to 2022, the portrait now faces right. Laura Gardin Fraser, the famous American sculptor, designed the right-facing George Washington quarter way back in 1931. However, it never saw the light of day and was put into the lockers only to be revealed 90 years later.

Celebrating women who have impacted America in different ways, the U.S. Mint released the quarter featuring poet and author Maya Angelou on the reverse and the right-facing portrait of George Washington on the obverse (heads).

While it is true that John Flanagan’s left-facing design was favored, ironically, it was Fraser’s Washington that appeared less fussy and more masculine.

Here’s an interesting video on the American Women Quarters Program.

Breaking the norms

During the early 20th century when marketing and branding began developing, going left was the norm. Be it corporate logos or currency, left-facing symbols and images were widely accepted. The idea of left-facing images and symbols was borrowed from heraldry traditions; however, the norms began to change as Americans began seeing right-facing logos more positively than their opposite counterparts.

A survey conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation in 1960 showed that a significant portion of the American population favored right-facing logos since they indicated progress, clarity, and dynamism.

Heraldry

Heraldry symbols have been in use since the mid-1100s to create a coat of arms for a person or family. The symbols used to customize a coat of arms are carefully chosen from the hundreds of variations found in the heraldry database. When you see a symbol from the heraldic traditions, you immediately recognize them because they’ve hardly changed over the years.

While the latest change made to the U.S. quarter is exactly the opposite of heraldry, it got very little attention, but a barely-detectable tweak made to Instagram’s logo became the talk of the town. However, the change in quarter portrays how the American logo design evolved over the past hundred years.

Waly Olins’ stinging criticism on modern logo trends

In his book, The Corporate Personality, published in 1978, corporate identity legend Waly Olins unleashes stinging criticism on modern logo design trends. Here is an excerpt from his book:

“Why are graphic designers still busily scribbling away at stylized flasks symbolizing the powerful modern chemical company busying itself with Man’s Future but human enough to remember its Humble Origins? Why are they still producing stylized sheaves of some unspecified grain for food companies, indicating that the organization has an involvement of however remote a kind with agriculture and Dear Old Dame Nature Herself by whose Bounty we all live? Above all, why are they still churning out these symbols consisting of initial letters tormented into a bizarre shape and ending with an arrow, preferably pointing upwards and slightly to the right, indicative of Progress and Dynamism and a controlled but powerful thrust towards what is clearly a better and brighter future?

Why is it that the design idea that ultimately emerges is so often banal and trite? Is this naïve rubbish the best that we can do?”

Five Heraldry symbols

The coat of arms database contains hundreds of symbols and their variations. While choosing from these great works of art is almost impossible, here are five that have been widely used in the past few centuries. 

Crowns

How The Change To US Quarter Symbolizes The Evolution Of Logo Designs
Heraldic crown and shield.

Image credit: Lovetoknow

A symbol of royal authority, a crown often had a cross at the top depicting power or topmost position in the hierarchy of the church. The crown could appear simple or elaborate, depending on the individual, family, or corporation it was made for.

 Laurel Leaves

How The Change To US Quarter Symbolizes The Evolution Of Logo Designs
Green Laurel wreath set

Image credit: Lovetoknow

A wreath of laurel is generally associated with peace and victory. Traditionally, laurels were used to depict triumph over adversities. The laurel leaf was also used as an emblem in the early days of the Olympics to symbolize victory. Today, a wreath of laurel is used by organizations who want to portray peace and non-violence. 

Sword

How The Change To US Quarter Symbolizes The Evolution Of Logo Designs
Coat of arms St. Lawrence Earl of Howth

Image credit: Lovetoknow

Sword is a powerful weapon and symbolizes many things. In heraldry, the sword represents justice, courage, and power. 

Angel of Honor

How The Change To US Quarter Symbolizes The Evolution Of Logo Designs
Coat of arms Viscount Mount Morres

Image credit: Lovetoknow

Angels played an important role in the middle ages. Be it symbols or fables: the middle ages were filled with angels and magic. They also appear in numerous logos and emblems because they symbolize dignity, honor, and righteousness.

Fleur de Lis 

How The Change To US Quarter Symbolizes The Evolution Of Logo Designs
Coat of arms Lord Mount Florence

Image credit: Lovetoknow

Found in France, lis is a variety of lily known for its beauty. The fleur de lis is a floral emblem found across the length and breadth of France. The floral badge is also seen in various parts of Europe. Fleur de lis stands for light and purity.

Now that we have explored some popular heraldic symbols: let us look at some modern logos that follow the old heraldic leftward traditions.

Modern heraldic logos

Before looking at some logos, let us look at some numbers.

A study found that out of the 62 Fortune 500 logos that move laterally, a whopping 82 percent go right. Today, only a few follow the heraldic left-facing traditions.

Let us now take a look at some logos.

Goodyear

How The Change To US Quarter Symbolizes The Evolution Of Logo Designs
The Goodyear symbol follows the heraldic left-facing tradition

Among the few companies that follow the heraldry tradition of symbols is Goodyear. The symbol in the middle of the wordmark is known as the Wingfoot, which has been with the brand since 1898. Frank Seiberling, the founder of the company, adopted the wordmark as the company’s primary emblem. The logo is based on the Roman god Mercury. According to legends, Mercury wore the “Talaria,” winged shoes that gave him speed, enabling him to perform his duties efficiently.

John Deere

How The Change To US Quarter Symbolizes The Evolution Of Logo Designs
The left-facing John Deere logo symbolizes motion and grace

Named after the founder, John Deere is among the few companies that follow the heraldic tradition of left-facing symbols. Established in 1837 in the USA, the company is known for manufacturing farming and agrarian machinery. The left-facing leaping deer has been an integral part of the logo since the company’s inception.

Lufthansa

How The Change To US Quarter Symbolizes The Evolution Of Logo Designs
Deutsche Lufthansa, the largest airline by fleet size in the EU, has a left-facing crane in its logo

Deutsche Lufthansa AG has more than 270 aircraft to its name, making the airline the largest by fleet size in the EU. Launched in 1953, the company adopted its first logo with the left-facing crane. The long neck of the bird, with its wing spread, appears perfect for the airline. The heraldic use of the left-facing symbol has been with the brand since its launch. The logo also is a great example of minimalism in logo designs.

Japan Airlines

How The Change To US Quarter Symbolizes The Evolution Of Logo Designs
The Japan Airline symbol appears to have come straight from heraldry textbooks

Popularly known as JAL, Japan Airlines is the flagship carrier of Japan. With more than 60 routes covering the entire length and breadth of Japan, JAL is one of the largest airlines in Asia. The logo currently in use is the new version of the iconic 1959 emblem. The left-facing bird with wings arched up looks sophisticated and stylish. The JAL logo is a classic example of heraldic traditions.

While the business of right vs. left will not disappear any time soon, it really boils down to what a brand wants and resonates with. The best logos can go wrong if they are not relevant and fail to communicate the brand personality. With that in mind, let us now move to the bonus section of the article where I will talk about the latest in logo design trends.

Interesting read: Should I be following the latest logo trends?

Bonus: Top 5 Current Logo Design Trends

Design trends, like fashion and music, change. What appears cool and stylish today, becomes boring and dull tomorrow, only to become the latest fad again in a couple of years. The thing about “trends” is that the old ones keep coming back. What does that mean? Well, nothing is truly out of fashion—they keep coming back.

That said, let us quickly take a tour of the top trending logo designs at the moment.

The 70s are back

Yes, they are back with a bang. The 70s were a time when psychedelic music and symbols ruled the earth. The hallucinogenic designs are now making a comeback to spread the message of love and peace.

Layered elements

Another design trend that has made a successful comeback is layered elements. Geometric patterns, along with an interesting choice of colors and typography, are quickly taking the center stage in the design world.

Blurred logos

Who would have thought blurred designs could become so popular? Designers are creating blurry wordmarks to attract people. The idea of blurry designs is to move the focus from readability to creativity.

Scribbles

While some creative artists are designing minimal logos to make things simpler, others are opting for child-like art. Scribbles are designs that are shaky and not very neat, but they evoke feelings of nostalgia and love.

Working with negative space

The negative or the white space is the blank area of a design. While the blank area is generally left alone, creative artists are now working with white space to create unique designs.

Conclusion

While the debate between right and left will not stop any time soon, we can safely conclude that the change made to the U.S. quarter reflects how logo designs in America have evolved over the years.

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