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Lion reborn

The lion on the coat of arms of the city of Vimperk in Czechia dates its origins to 1537. Through the coming centuries it has witnessed many interventions and alterations that deviate it from the strongest tradition and the rules of heraldry.

I was asked to rework the lion and the coat of arms to give it a permanent strong representative presence. There is something fascintating about these century-long traditions and long lasting graphic symbolism that heraldry stands for. In line with my methodology I have started this by bringing in a great expert in the field from the Czech Genealogic and Heraldic Society in Prague, Mr. Stanislav Kasík. His research and analysis of the coat of arms has brought to light many interesting aspects. For example During the Second World War the Germans have made attempts to change the leaping lion into a running dog. We have removed the dog influence could begin to see what needs to happen to make this a proper lion again.

It never was an anatomically correct lion in the original version and I wanted to keep its stylized look of a heraldic figure and its forms that are dictated by established traditions. My approach to the whole subject was to bring in as little change as possible, to stay true to heraldry but to blend in some contemporary influence as well. Vimperk is a city with a rich history of book culture and trade but in its current life it is so keen on its sports. So the contemporary influence must have been sports team symbols from around the World. I wanted the lion to stay honest to its late medieval roots but to be a symbol that current and future generations can recognize and understand. A symbol they can relate to and begin to see as something strong and meaningful that represents their city.

In its new version the lion also received a previously unused option – the lion head. It is a great energetic symbol that finds many applications within the city’s visual identity.

Together the lion and the tower form a strong partnership. As heraldry prescribes they have an optically matching line thickness but the architectural symbol is more geometric while the lion is more organic. Of course I tried to make the lion strictly out of one thickness of line but that would never work here. The lion needs to have more fluency in its lines. The teeth and the claws are done in a thinner line as they need to maintain a clearly visible fill down to small sizes.

The coat of arms has changed minimally, it was mostly a cleanup based on a new grid, an inner system of visual rules and a consistent symmetry. Overall the changes that were done only reflect our sincere attempt to give the coat of arms a make-over that brings in the artistic, historical and heraldic properties worthy of such an important symbol. In the projects links below you can explore more from this visual identity project including the standard full colored version of the coat of arms.

Just for comparison this is the previous heavily distorted version of the lion before any work.

This was the starting point of the above steps. It is the lion from the previous version of the coat of arms that was used during the recent decades. It is clearly a result of some automatic line tracing tool applied to a low quality image or an old drawing. It does not bear any signs of adequate graphic attention in that process. Some traces can be found of the dehonesting attempts from the 1940’s to turn the figure into a dog. From a heraldic point of view it is wrong on many levels: inconsistent line thickness, inconsistent or destryoed features, unclear gender, unclear claws and teeth and so on. All the problems were fixed when working on the new one.

Project under supervision and with official approval of the Czech Genealogic and Heraldic Society in Prague.

client
City of Vimperk

creative direction, graphic design
Matej Chabera

heraldic & genealogic research, consulting
Stanislav Kasík

visuals
Chabera Studio

collaboration
Michaela Hečková

year
2021

status
completed

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