Chapter 3: Designing An Air Force Emblem
In designing an emblem for an organization, the most important factors to be considered are the organization's history, its mission (such as reconnaissance, airlift, fighter, medical services, security, civil engineer, etc.), the proper symbols to be depicted in the emblem design, the placement of the symbolic elements or "charges" on the design field, and color selection. An organization may design its own emblem or it may request in submission of its emblem package to the organizational historian that the DoD executive agency for heraldry, The Institute of Heraldry, United States Army, design the emblem. TIOH, working from the mission statement and any historical information the organization provides, will submit a choice of two or three designs to the organization for feedback, then finalize the emblem.
The Elements of an Emblem
The numbers and letters in Figures 9 and 10 explain the various positions of the field on a shield and a disc. The numbers and letters indicate:
1. Dexter (right-hand side of the bearer)
2. Sinister (left-hand side of the bearer)
A. Dexter chief
B. Middle chief
C. Sinister chief
D. Dexter base
E. Middle base
F. Sinister base
G. Honor point
H. Fess point
I. Nombril point
The dexter side of the shield (or disc) refers to the right hand, while the sinister side refers to the left hand side of the bearer. The different positions on the emblem field are important in preparing the blazon--the written description of the design. In heraldry, the smallest change in the position of a symbolic element (or "charge") in the design changes the entire arms. The meaning of a coat of arms with a lion in chief (at the top) differs essentially from one with a lion in base (at the bottom), and the symbols depicting the organization's mission, history, or qualities face to the right side (dexter) never to the left side (sinister) of the bearer. A description of important heraldic terms is included in the Appendix, A Glossary of Heraldic Terms.
Figure 11 shows a current, approved emblem for an establishment, the 7th Bomb Wing. Notice the difference between this emblem and the historical one in Figure 1, which shows a crest, a differently shaped shield, and a different type of scroll.
Emblem, 7th Bomb Wing
The shield design should have only one scroll, as shown in Figure 11. The scroll usually displays an establishment's designation. But a wing or independent group (i.e., a group assigned to an echelon at a higher level than a wing) may choose to display its approved motto on the scroll (AFI 84-105 paragraph 3.3.2.). Either way, the flag-bearing organization must limit the number of characters (letters and numbers) and spaces to 36. To contrast with the flag field, the scroll must be white with a yellow border and blue lettering. When the scroll must be changed because of redesignation or motto change, the establishment should update its heraldry with TIOH (only squadrons and flights may change their scrolls locally). For organizations that have digitized emblems and flag and patch drawings already, TIOH discounts the cost of updated color artwork and flag drawings. The flag manufacturer must have an updated blueprint (large size) showing the revised lettering to embroider the new scroll for the flag. The flag manufacturer will change the scroll on the organization's existing flag for about a quarter of the cost of a new flag. Contact the Air Force Clothing and Textile Office, DSN 444-3850 or (215) 737-3850, for details.
The disc design for units may have either one or two scrolls. The unit designation should always appear on the bottom scroll (AFI 84-105, paragraphs 3.4.1 and 3.4.2). Both scrolls are the same size, as outlined in AFI 84-105, paragraph 3.4.3. Figure 12, the emblem of the 802d Civil Engineer Squadron, is an example of a disc designed with two scrolls. The unit motto "Lead The Way" is on the upper scroll, leaving the lower scroll for the unit designation.
Emblem, 802 Civil Engineer Squadron
This design represents a change in policy; consequently, one may often see a unit emblem with the motto in the lower scroll and the unit designation in the upper. As a unit with this configuration exhausts current supplies of patches and other emblem renditions, it should make the changes in the scrolls to conform to AFI 84-105, paragraph 3.4.1. This may be done locally, and a copy sent via history channels to the AFHRA. The typeface and type size should be as follows: All caps, for Corel Draw use Switzerland black condensed, or for Microsoft products use Arial black, 36 points, except "ST," "TH," and "D" at the end of numbers should be 25 points. On the scroll(s) of the disc, the number of characters and spaces must not exceed 30; to accommodate this number, the scroll(s) may extend up to 90, 120, or 150 degrees of the arc. Both must be of the same arc length and have borders for quality manufacture. The border of the disc and scroll(s) must match the color of the lettering, per AFI 84-105, paragraph 184.108.40.206.
Emblem designs must not duplicate other emblems. On the other hand, an organization wishing to incorporate on its own emblem, an element common to its parent organization's emblem may do so.
Using Colors in Emblems
The colors of an emblem often have significance but that is always secondary to the symbolism of the emblem. The colors of the Air Force, ultramarine blue and Air Force yellow, should appear in the design; the blue represents "the sky", the primary theater of Air Force operations, while Air Force yellow represents "the sun" and the excellence required of Air Force personnel. A note of caution, ultramarine blue, while it represents the sky, is not a light blue; an ultramarine blue shield or disc is fairly dark and requires charges of good contrast. A rule of thumb when assigning color to design elements is to use colors that contrast: dark on light, light on dark. Heraldry divides colors into two categories: metals (gold, yellow, gray, silver, white) and colors (i.e., non-metals -- reds, blues, and greens). The cardinal rule of heraldry is no metal on metal and no color on color. The positive and negative association of twelve colors appears below for field personnel who are considering the design of organizational emblems.
RED (heraldic GULES) Positive: blood of life, boldness, Christ, courage, hardiness, liberty, magnanimity, passion, patriotism, planet Mars, sentiment, strength, valor, warmth (of fire), and zeal. Negative: anarchy, blood (spilled), danger, death throes, Satan, fire (burning), passions, revolution, war, and wounds.
ORANGE (heraldic Tenne) Positive: ambition, benevolence, earthly wisdom, endurance, fire, flames, hospitality, marriage, pride, and strength. Negative: malevolence and Satan.
GOLD (heraldic metal OR) Positive: honor, majesty (royalty), mystic aspects of the sun, riches, and wisdom. Negative: idolatry.
YELLOW (also heraldic metal OR) Positive: constancy, dissemination, divinity, elevation of mind, excellence, highest values, honor, illumination, intellect, intuition, justice, light, loyalty, magnanimity, riches, ripened grain, sun, supreme wisdom and wisdom. Negative: cowardice and treachery.
BROWN . Positive: the earth and lesser nobility. Negative: Barrenness and poverty.
GREEN (heraldic VERT). Positive: adaptability, auspiciousness, gladness, fertility of fields, freshness, hope, immortality, joy, love, life, nature, prosperity, sympathy, vegetation, planet Venus, wisdom, and youth. Negative: disgrace, envy, jealousy, lividness, madness, opposition, and sinisterness.
BLUE (heraldic AZURE). Positive: (light blue) calm seas, charity, cold, constancy, daylight, devotion, innocence, planet Jupiter, justice, loyalty, piety, sincerity, sky, thinking, and truth. Negative (dark blue): doubt, discomfort, night, and stormy seas.
PURPLE (heraldic PURPURE). Positive: empire, humility, jurisdiction, love of truth, loyalty, memories, planet Mercury, nostalgia, patience, power, rank, royalty, sacrifice, and spirituality. Negative: martyrdom, mourning, penitence, regret, resignation, and sublimation.
BLACK (heraldic SABLE). Positive: constancy, dignity, determination, divine doctrine, fertilized land, humility, mighty, night, prudence, regality, planet Saturn, sophistication, sorrow, and starkness. Negative: death, despair, evilness, grief, morbidity, nothingness, penitence, sickness, sin, and void.
GRAY (heraldic metal ARGENT). Positive: discretion, humility, maturity, penitence, renunciation, and retrospection. Negative: barrenness, depression, egoism, grief, indifference, inertia, neutralization, old age, and winter.
SILVER (also heraldic metal ARGENT). Positive: charity, chastity, clear conscience, faith, moon, innocence, purity, and test of truth. Negative: blank, cold, ghostly, spectral, and void.
WHITE (also heraldic metal ARGENT). Positive: daylight, innocence, perfection, purity, truth, and wisdom. Negative: same as for silver above.
To Chapter Four