Now that she’s officially the Duchess of Sussex, real-life American princess Meghan Markle needed the one thing a duchess can’t live without: a coat of arms.
The resulting design, which Kensington announced that Markle herself had a hand in, is an asymmetrical mess. There’s a regal-looking lion on the left–which represents Harry–but Markle has chosen to symbolize herself as a squawking bird with a scrawny leg that’s holding up a shield between them. And for some reason, there’s a huge gap between the bird’s body and the shield that isn’t repeated on the other side of the design, throwing the whole thing off balance. In an institution where symbols mean everything, it’s not a great start.
The shield garnered quite a bit of attention in Fast Company‘s Slack. Here are the highlights from our conversation–and why the coat of arms is currently leading the field for the biggest design crime of 2018.
Choking the symbolism
According to The Telegraph, the bird is actually a songbird, which is supposed to represent communication. The feathers on the shield also symbolize “communication and the power of words,” according to the official Kensington Royal Instagram. Note, however, that both the bird and the lion have crowns around their necks and appear to be in anguish. How are they supposed to communicate when they’re clearly choking?
The coat of arms is also rife with references to California. The right side of the shield, which the songbird is struggling to hold up, has a blue background to represent the Pacific Ocean, with alternating feathers and golden stripes–the latter indicating that California is sunny. The entire shield rests on a bed of poppies, the California state flower. Okay, we get it. California is pretty. But couldn’t they have channeled some of California’s more exciting exports? As my colleague Daniel Salo notes, “I feel like they really missed an opportunity to finally put Tupac and a grizzly bear on an official coat of arms.”
There are other puzzling design quirks. Prince Harry’s lion looks downright demonic, with an oddly human body and bright red claws. Is it nail polish? Blood? My colleague Elizabeth Segran put it best: “Can someone explain wtf is going on?”