What I like in a General Assembly banner

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The banners at General Assembly hardly rise in importance as governance or policy matters, but the parade at the opening plenary has become important in General Assembly culture. Alas, most aren't every memorable.

What might work as a piece of fixed wall art fails to make an impression when moving, seen from a distance or with a set of many others like it. You can only see so many rivers, rainbows, trees and children's handprints -- all done in a stained glass window style -- before you forget what you saw.

Common features in what I think works are:

  • A simple color scheme.
  • Banner elements large enough to be seen from a distance.
  • A design that can be accurately described without referring to the text on it.
  • Something in the design that refers back to the congregation.

The Annapolis, Maryland "flaming crab" banner design has been so successful that it has been carried over into a new copy. The Muttontown, New York banner -- with its sheep -- is another classic. I'm also partial to the Blackhawk County, Iowa banner (I'm thinking the block motif alludes to how towns and roads were laid out) and the Church of the Larger Fellowship's.

4 Replies to “What I like in a General Assembly banner”

  1. Very good points. I remember from last year that a lot of banners- and a lot of the official convention signage- were of color schemes, or font size that were unreadable from any distance by those of us whose eyes are no longer 20 years old. Lots of contrast and large print will be welcome to many of us.

  2. What I always wonder when I see the banners is whether they are used in local settings (e.g., their city’s Pride parade or an interfaith event), or if not, whether those congregations/organizations have a second banner for such settings.

    The CLF’s and Blackhawk, Iowa’s would make a poor showing outside General Assembly, since they don’t say anything about being UU. They are for UU consumption only–which is perfectly appropriate for the banner parade. But I do hope they have a “home uniform” as well. Likewise, there are some that look to be great “home uniforms” that maybe should stay home while a different version goes to General Assembly.

    I tend to be forgiving of the admittedly repetitious rainbows, trees, children’s handprints, and stained glass because I picture them in a local parade and (if the essential information “Unitarian Universalist Church” is there) think, “When someone sees that, they’ll know what that church is about.” And of course, they won’t know or care that other UU churches around the country have similar motifs.

  3. A banner can’t be pressed into saying too much about anything. At best, it can identify group A with image B. If image B has other associations, then these can be attributed back to A, but only with the risk of unintended associations. (What does a flaming chalice mean to someone unfamiliar with Unitarian Universalists?)

    Better I think to have graphic clarity and make the case for Unitarian Universalism in other ways.

  4. Well, yeah, you can’t really “make the case” in a banner. It’s all we can do to fit our names on the thing, so clarity and attractiveness are about all we can manage.

    Mostly, if you carry your church’s banner to a local event, you make the case for Unitarian Universalism just by being there. That’s why having no words but “UU” and “[name of town]” is totally unhelpful. The people at the event already know you’re from there and they don’t know what UU means.

    The chalice is good for branding purposes (OMG, I can’t believe I just said “branding” in a post about church): a nice image that, like the Presbyterian or Methodist equivalents, doesn’t really tell anyone much until they inquire, but communication of complex ideas is not its intended function. It’s the visual equivalent of a name.

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