The Evolution of the Banner

Web Banner

UntitledThe banner is something we are all familiar with; there are all sorts of banner shapes and sizes and if you work or shop on the internet, chances are you will be familiar with web banners and if you have ever been to a birthday party you are likely to know of hanging banners. Yes, banners seem to be just about everywhere but this isn’t anything new. You will probably encounter banners of some sort every day, so ask yourself, how well do you really know banners? Try reading on to learn how banners have evolved over time and see how they still fit in our twenty-first century lives.


Banner Beginnings

  • Moses (1300 BC)

The Bible and other ancient scripts mention banners as having been used in conjunction with religious ceremonies and procession. Religious banners are still used today and there is evidence to support claims that banners existed millennia ago. Along with others from the Old Testament, Moses is said to have used banners. In 1300 BC Moses led his people across the desert to the Promised Land. At such a trying time, moving an entire people across the arid desert was no mean feat and in order to keep them all organised on the journey Moses carried banners. The banners would have been easy for any stragglers to spot at a distance and groups would have been able to remain together by following the banner that corresponded with their group, such organisation and unity being crucial in dangerous desert conditions.

  • Ancient Rome (753 BC – AD 1453)

Since around 44BC, Ancient Rome’s most distinguished families would have had a coat of arms and any houses belonging to the Roman nobility would have had a banner displaying the family coat of arms above the entrance. The coat of arms was a tradition that spread throughout Europe and is still used to identify aristocratic families today. However, in Ancient Rome the banners would have been displayed very publicly and with a well-embroidered coat of arms, the banner would have been easily recognised by the rich and poor alike. Long before the days of street names and house numbers, this very accessible display of nobility meant noble families could be sure that their equals and those inferior to them would recognise their home and status almost instantly.

  • Knights of the Realm and Samurai Warriors (1100-1500s)

Medieval knights and Japanese Samurai warriors would have used banners during battle. The knights used to wear Heraldic flags and banners which were easily recognised and allowed them to lead their men, even in the chaos of a battle. The Samurai Sashimono banners, a type of pole attached to the chest armour had much the same principle, worn by the warriors and their soldiers so that one side could be distinguished from the other in battle.

Bridging the Banner Gap

  • The Trade Unions (1840 – Present)

Trade Union banners have become a symbol of peaceful protest. They first appeared in the mid-19th century when industrial workers joined trade unions and began their plight for better working conditions, marching against the mill and factory owners. The trade union banners were made to be noticed, usually depicting optimistic images of the future, loaded statements and slogans and vivid colours. Their purpose meant they had to be sturdy and durable, mostly made of silk that was stretched over a wooden frame then carried by the workers for the duration of the march. Interestingly, this particular style of banner was also used in May Day Parades and the like.

  • Aerial Advertising (1900s – Present)

With its developments in technology and engineering, the 20th century saw people try new ways of doing things. Aeroplanes took the world by storm and they were used in everything from combat to commercial travel. Propeller-powered aircraft were (and are!) also used for dragging aerial advertising banners. These planes were used because they weren’t as fast or as fuel-thirsty as jet engines and banners took to the sky because it was an efficient and attention-grabbing way of advertising to isolated pockets of potential audiences.

New Generation Banners

  • Internet Advertising (1993 – Present)

The internet is perhaps one of the greatest legacies of the 20th century. It has completely revolutionised the way the world works, from communication to commerce. Whilst print media and traditionalbanner stands are by no means redundant, new media and technology has changes the way advertising and promotion works. Advertising went online in the mid-nineties and the first clickable online advert – an online banner-style advertisement – was sold by GGN (Global Network Navigator) to a law firm. One year later, HotWired coined the term “banner ad” and sold their first one to American communications firm AT&T. Today, banner ads are commonplace and they have been developed further so that their effect and performance can be monitored by its administrators, giving companies a better insight into how their marketing strategies work, their online presence and what sales are generated by web banners.

  • Statement-Makers (2000s – Present)

The newest development in banners has been the emergence of the statement-making banner. These are the banners that have roots in traditional uses, like Trade Union marches, but are in fact a new type of banner. These new-generation statement-making banners are those used in student protests, at political rallies, by legions of sports fans and even as props or decorations at parties and other events. They are there to communicate, to engage, to decorate and more often than not, to make a statement – the statement being anything from “Happy Birthday” to “Say No To Animal Testing”.

So there you have it, the evolution of banners. Although their basic design and premise has not changed a great deal since Moses’ day, it’s safe to say they aren’t going anywhere – aren’t you glad you know a little more about them now?


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