The logo for the World-Tree Project (used here and on our collection website www.worldtreeproject.org) features a tree whose roots and branches interlock to form a complete sphere. The graphic designer who produced the logo for us – Anne-Kathrin Schoerner – had a brief to produce a logo that was unique; that expressed the project aims; and that gestured towards the artwork of the period represented by the project.
Representing Yggdrasill (or the World-Tree) is by no means an easy feat. One of the earliest images of the tree (dating to the Viking Age itself) is the central image on the tapestries discovered at Överhogdal church in the early twentieth century (and long believed to be medieval productions). This image formed the basis of the trademarked logo used by Överhogdal parish.
Another well-known image of the World-Tree appears in the late seventeenth-century Icelandic manuscript, AM 738 4to, at fol. 43r. This image is probably based on Snorri’s account of Yggdrasill in his Prose Edda, and incorporates several details: including some of the inhabitants of the World-Tree, including the serpent Níðhöggr, who gnaws at the roots of the tree.
In more recent times, Yggdrasill has been represented in a myriad of different ways, from the naturalistic (as an ordinary tree above a well) to the schematic. Finnur Magnússon’s illustration in his Eddalæren og dens Oprindelse was one of the first of countless attempts to reconcile the World-Tree with the details of the Norse cosmos: a schema that doesn’t lend itself to visual representation. Pictured alongside it is another recent attempt (by Wolfgang Werner) to bring together the imagery surrounding Yggdrasill in somewhat bewildering detail.
We wanted to do something very different with the World-Tree logo – to get back to the simpler design of something like the tree on the Överhogdal tapestry, but one that also made reference to the intricacy of the World-Tree as a concept. For this reason, the designer avoided a completely symmetrical logo, opting instead for meandering branches and complex interlace that brings to mind Viking-Age artwork. The idea of the World-Tree is not suggested by size or by extraneous detail, but by the fact that the roots and branches join together to form a complete circle. The logo is simple enough to be identifiable at a distance, but also suggests the complexity of the world encompassed by Yggdrasill.
We think that the logo is an excellent representation of what we hope to achieve through this project: to connect the many branches of engagement with the vikings into a single living archive. Let us know what you think!