Throughout the history of Scouting, one thing has always remained constant: the universal love for patches. Since 1911, the BSA has been producing countless badges for Scouts to earn and display. For example, the iconic Eagle Scout badge, while it has been updated over time, has continually displayed the classic red, white, and blue background with the silver eagle over it. It’s a patch that’s universally recognized as an indicator of Scouting because of its design. So if the Eagle Scout patch is so successful, why don't other patches fare so well? To find out, we must explore what makes a patch truly successful and inspiring by considering all aspects of what makes a patch a patch.
The Patch Making Process
In order to create a successful and inspiring patch, there must first be an idea. For example, themed flaps for NOAC or fellowship weekends always prove to be popular and are an enticing item for events. Some artists like to draw their designs by hand, while others may prefer to design digitally, but all lodge flaps must be approved by the lodge. After the design has been settled by the Arrowmen, the design is shipped to a patch design company. If they are hand drawn, the company is often able to digitize the sketch and help fine-tune the original design. The company will then send a prototype or “sew up” of the design digitally, before it goes into production. Any final revisions can be made at this point before the patch is manufactured and is distributed. Patch designing is definitely a science, and no one understands it more than Brian Schaeffer of Takhone Lodge and member of the National Trading Post Subcommittee, whose patch design experience includes NOAC sets, high adventure sets, and event patches.
“The patch designing process is often like pulling teeth. There’s often multiple designs, and event patches often require approval from different committees. The whole thing often ends up taking about six to eight weeks,” according to Brian.
It’s a lengthy process that requires lots of critical thinking and analyzing. Each Arrowman wants what is best for the design, which can lead to a clashing of ideas. However, this is necessary and serves as a teaching point in the Order of the Arrow: to cooperate with others and work together in fellowship.
The Three Key Factors in Patch Designing
Firstly, an important factor to consider when designing a patch is being mindful of others' opinions. Not everyone will agree upon the same patch design and there will often be comments or critiques to consider. A true Arrowman respects their peers and considers their ideas.
Logan Brown of Woapink Lodge, an experienced patch designer says “having that acknowledgement goes a long way.”
Secondly, another important factor when designing a patch is the branding and appeal. All official lodge flaps must contain the letters “WWW” and a fleur-de-lis, and match the size of the pocket on the uniform. From there, creative elements such as the lodge name or insignia can be incorporated in interesting ways to make the patch pop! Schaffer says that the patch should showcase “something that captures the essence of the event.” A patch that delivers on the idea of spirit will triumph over a patch that does not have meaning and purpose. The final and most important factor of designing a patch is having confidence. As a Scout and an Arrowman, it is key to be brave throughout the design process; it will be easier to approach changes and critiques made by others, such as the LEC. Above all, creativity is crucial, as a well designed patch cannot exist without color and meaning. Take risks and create a design you are proud of!
The Technology Behind It
The patch-making process cannot be complete without its tools. Over the years, the process of manufacturing patches has changed and evolved. For example, Schaffer says that patches “used to be felt or metallic and not one-hundred percent threaded.” Today, patches are made out of various materials, such as twill, cotton, and polyester. In addition, patches can be raised to a higher level of design through glow-in-the dark technology and ghosted designs. These types of designs can often attract people to them and raise the patch’s respective value. However, it is important to keep in mind that designing patches with advanced designs for monetary value is deviating from the idea of design patches in the OA. Although activities such as patch trading at events can be fun and incentivising, they can “alter the main purpose of patch trading,” as Brown states, which is to form fellowship and keep the spirit of the OA aflame. This is especially true as digital technology expands and takes patch designing to a new level. For example, artificial intelligence (A.I.) has seen its implementation into patch designing through online sources and company manufacturing. Other technological resources used for design such as Adobe or Canva have become the flagship in both early and late patch designing. As technology advances, patch designing will alongside it and Arrowmen must learn how to handle the technology wisely.