The School Crest and Motto

As I walked along the corridor of the school having just been greeted by a smiling receptionist, I couldn’t help but notice the crest and motto of this famous institution etched into the door of the Principal’s office. Words of inspiration no doubt inscribed on the badge that speaks of allegiance to this renowned educational institute.

The uniqueness, the difference was clearly celebrated and shown forth to the world. It was to be seen on the letterheads, the football jerseys, the food hall, the school prospectus and I caught a glimpse of it too on stationary, pens and pencils.

Today it now exists in all its technological glory on the new school app! Today they call it ‘branding’ which is not only a means of differentiation but in essence your brand is your promise to your customer. 

The long and intriguing history of branding can be traced back to the era of castles and kings with the use of elaborate crests and striking mottos. Later the stately homes followed, making sure that others exactly knew who they were. The trend continued with Municipalities, militaries, organizations and educational institutes. 

A colorful symbol on a guard’s shield with a simple and easily remembered strapline that accompanying it spoke of the heraldry and its associations. Sometimes a crest says it all (providing the symbolism is understood). Such is the case with Eton College which had arms assigned to it in 1449 by King Henry V1. Over time an unofficial motto came into use ‘Floreat Etona,’ meaning ‘May Eton Flourish.’ Private school mottoes speak to the high-minded purposes for which most were founded. 

Today, the average secondary school from Sydney to Sunderland, Tokyo to Toronto and London to Los Angeles will have some kind of crest on its pupils’ uniforms. It is a clear statement that ‘we stand for something’ - the aims and values of the school as declared in the mission statement.

Usually the motto is very short and made up of two to four words. To this end many are in Latin unintentionally serving the dual function of fitting well on the breast pocket of a school blazer and raising curiosity as to its translation.   

It is fair to ask the question - Could schools do without their motto? The fact that they all have one is telling. There is something worthwhile in having an instantly recognizable logo, celebrating the brand. Typically, these are Latin phrases taken from Scripture or lines of worldly wisdom attributed to some great writers of antiquity.

Some interesting samples show the variety in mottos that educational institutes use today. Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg in Germany quotes St John, "Die Wahrheit wird euch frei machen" (The Truth Shall set you free). The English schools Crompton High School ‘Sapere aude' (Dare to be wise) and Dr Challoner’s Grammar School ‘Ad astra per aspera’ (To the stars through difficulties), promote worthy aspirations. Some express patriotism like Canada’s University of Saskatchewan - ‘For God and Country.’ Reflecting their struggles in Zimbabwe, Thornhill High School draws on the imagery of a climb - ’Per spinas ad culmina’ (Through the thorns to the hilltop). You have got to get a little dirty with hard work if you want to succeed, says Nova Scotia’s Acadia University - ‘In Pulvere Vinces' (In dust, you win).

Foothill College in USA with its "Upgrade. Advance" modern motto might well sound like its incorporating the terminology of a smartphone warrior! The fictional Unseen University has a wholly appropriate line ‘Nunc id Vides. Nunc ne Vides’ (Now you see it. Now you don’t), but the college I’d like to visit or attend for further studies has to be The Evergreen State College - a liberal Arts College founded in the Swinging 60’s in Washington State with a motto to fit the laid-back attitude. It simply reads ‘Omnia Extares’ (Let it all hang out).

On viewing a school or college crest along with the brief phrase written below it, one will be able to capture at a glance the essence of the institution. This tells us that the brand is important and deserves to be clearly presented in every way possible.


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