Monograms over history

How has practice of using a Monogram changed over time?

King Leo 1’s Monogram

This is a Monogram of King Leo I, a Roman Emperor. They would use it as symbols carved into coins and as representative of him as an Emperor. This symbol would be used to exert power and be used for armour, swords, pottery etc, to brandish the symbol of the Emperor. The importance of this symbol was big, and using this symbol meant that you either lived in or worked for the Emperor in some form. If rivals were caught wearing it, it could signify if they were a friend or an enemy. The mark was to be distinctive from each emperor to know who it was. It can also be used to brand slaves in the property of the kingdom and suggest ownership. It was used for coins, and each coin would have the monogram on it, and even go so far as only the coins with the monogram symbol engraved on it would be legal tender. In the case of Leo I, he adopted this monogram of his name, consisting of the Alphabet and other lines. The monogram itself is quite complex, consisting of 11 lines to draw, including the circle. It is still distinguishable from other Roman Emperors symbols, but runs the risk of not being immediately recognisable at first glance.

The iconic Chanel logo

An example of a modern monogram would be the Chanel Logo. In the modern space, it represents something very different, and a power of a different kind. This logo represents the brand Chanel, and is a signature on any of its apparel, whether on the tag or stamped on it. In the fashion marketplace, a monogram is the easiest way to stand out from the crowd. A simple, but distinctive design like this will have people associating this monogram with the brand and this marketing serves for people to remember the brand. When people remember the monogram for a brand, they will remember what the brand and what it stood for. As a monogram, it is very simplified, consisting of two interlocking C’s facing away from each other. There is only one shape duplicated twice and arranged back to back to create this monogram, which is very simple.

An example of different Roman Emperor Monograms

Using a monogram has changed a lot over time. The original usage was for Roman Emperors, kings, and merchants to use as an identifying symbol of power and respect. Nowadays, it is still a representation of power in modern culture, but of the commodity sort. Popular brands are recognised based on symbols alone, and allow for a recognisable brand. Monogram usage is more geared towards label recognition, and establishing a reliable persona for the public to take interest in. The use of it is more casual, but the designs are more refined and simplified due to the abundance of signs and monograms in the modern world. The advancement of technology also plays a role, with the modern ones being more clearer and defined, due to computer availability and file exchanges, historical figures didn’t have the luxury, and everything had to be hand-crafted with varying degrees of success.

Whereas the ancient use of monograms being engraved on everything from swords to armour to be recognisable, that is not the case today. The use of military monograms on uniforms and modern warfare is almost non-existent. Warfare has also changed to be a more subtle affair with spying and surveillance taking priority, and the very last thing to do would be to slap a recognisable monogram on those objects or people. It has moved from state matters to more commercial matters of selling than in the past.

Monograms as a whole are recognisable and an integral part of society nowadays. Visual Communication is the first thing people look at when shopping for a product. It is the most recognisable aspect for the brand at a first glance.