Recently, I had the opportunity to design branding for a local holiday homes company. What started out as regular research, quickly became an unexpected learning experience. Here is how to use the Yorkshire rose in graphic design.
The political and economic climate we’re living through has several contributing factors; Brexit has made us question the places to which our hearts are anchored. Ecommerce and high business rates have slaughtered the high street. One could be shopping in Aberdeen or Altrincham, all the shops are chain stores. From which a pro-independent, pro-local retail trend has emerged. With self-employment higher than ever, we’re seeing greater numbers of products which cite their origin as a unique selling point. Perhaps crisps made in Newcastle do taste better than ones from Norwich. There are more people than ever producing variations of the same thing. This zeitgeist has ultimately led to an increased use of symbols to identify products with places.
One such symbol is the white rose, representing Yorkshire. There is plenty of arguments on the internet mythology associated with this. Pedants reading this are going to shimmer with sass when they have some “well, actually…” facts to annoy their friends with.
A history lesson.
While it is known as the Yorkshire Rose, its origin is as the flower representing the house (family) of York.
The War of Roses was not a fight for land between Yorkshire and Lancashire. That’s cricket you’re thinking of. It was a series of battles between the southern-living houses of York and Lancaster. The Yorkists possibly wore a white rose badge as part of their heraldry. The Lancastrian red rose was a later invention, which after The War of the Roses was named.
Another noted tale is at the Battle of Minden in Prussia. On 1 August 1759 Yorkshire regiments laid white roses on the graves of their fallen comrades. In a calendar where there’s marketing patronage for every day, 1st August is nominated as Yorkshire Day.
Whatever the case may be, it’s generally considered that use of the white rose to represent the counties didn’t flourish until the 19th century. Those romantic Victorians, giving out roses…
The Yorkshire flag was designed in 1965 and only registered with the Flag Institute as recently as 2008.
On a particularly wide-eyed sprint around York, I spotted many embellishments of the Yorkshire rose on buildings, both aged and contemporary. A few photos here, but I don’t doubt that I’ve missed some.
Designing with the Yorkshire Rose
Decide if you want to create a recognisable form of the rose. This will appear closer to the symmetrical, rotatable line drawing. Alternatively, you could do a more honest. botanical illustration (rose alba).
The brilliant news is, there isn’t a true standard of Yorkshire rose. This means the form is very much open to interpretation. Depending on scale and application, you have the option to discard some unnecessary details. While the Flag Institute has a registered design, it only applies to flags, which are burdened by legislation. Corporate packaging is a much more liberated format.
Position in the flags of the ridings of North and West Yorkshire, a petal is uppermost, while in the flag for the East Riding of Yorkshire, a sepal (green protector of the flower head) is uppermost.
Colours the Yorkshire flag is a white rose on a blue background. Green is applied to the sepals and yellow is often used in the central detailing. Traditionally, the blue background would be navy, but any glance at any of York’s finest tourist tat shops will show a brighter tone of blue. The Flag Institute specify the Pantone colours as being Blue 300, White, Cream 617, Green 368/370, Yellow 109/116.
Petals As I’ve shown, York’s buildings are adorned with flowers. As a rule of thumb, a Yorkshire rose has five outer petals. Not four nor six, which many York buildings also have. While I’ve already said that the design is open to interpretation, familiarity is an important factor. The number of petals is the greatest signifier of it being a heraldic rose.
In all the research I’ve done for this piece, I can only find two inspiring interpretations of the Yorkshire rose. The first being this Spirograph rose from the Old School Gallery. While I woudn’t live and die for my county, this print is in the heart of my home. The second is an even more abstract approach, the Yorkshire Mark, designed by LazenbyBrown of York. Creative Director, Mat Lazenby explained “The central symbol is a decorative knotted ‘Quatrefoil’ – an ancient symbol said to underpin the Yorkshire Rose.”
Are we going to hit peak localism soon? We have lived throgh years of talk of borders and walls, paired with the threat of climate disaster. Perhaps we are overdue to embrace a one-world outlook. Maybe one with a focus on the people who made a product (as both Lush and Traidcraft do). If a symbol is ubiquitous, does it become meaningless? I’d love to see if designers can find new ways to represent our towns and counties without relying on expected motifs. After all, the Yorkshire rose hasn’t been around for all that long.
Designers have the power to start conversations about identity and geography. Perhaps one day, the souvenir shops will be cashing in on a new design of tea towel. One which escapes traditional notions of Yorkshire. Afterall, as the Mighty Boosh’s Howard Moon once said, Yorkshire is a place, Yorkshire is a state of mind.
The Yorkshire Ridings Society are the self-appointed heroes of Yorkshire as a historic region. Their website doesn’t appear to be updated often, but they might be a useful contact.
The Yorkshire Flag, as registered with the Flag Institute.
The Yorkshire Mark, a seal of true Yorkshire origin for the county’s food and drink industry.