Twelve Tribes of Israel – Design & Development


Twelve Tribes of Israel was my Major Project, which I developed in the end of Print Production course at London College of Communication. I produced a book, about Twelve Tribes of Israel with graphic representations (illustrations) of 12 symbols of tribes, with an insert – collection of postcards. The symbol of each tribe is my own interpretation, based on the traditional symbols of 12 tribes with regards to characteristic signs and colors. My aim was to experiment with geometric shapes & lines, along with patterns of various textures.

Research & Visual Research

I conducted a research in libraries and online to gather a genuine information & various images of the symbols. It gave me the idea what already has been produced & was a good starting point for a development of my own designs.

The symbols of the tribes are by no means fixed as different interpretations may be given to the biblical texts describing the sons of Jacob. In Jacob’s blessing (Genesis 49) each of the sons is described allergorically and symbols for the tribes have been derived from these descriptions, as well as from other biblical passages.


  1. REUBEN – mandrake (flower) / red
  2. SIMEON – city of Schechem (the city symbolized by the tower) / green
  3. LEVI – breastplate of the High Priest / red, white & black
  4. JUDAH – lion / blue
  5. ZEBULUN – ship / white
  6. ISSACHAR – donkey with burden or sun, moon & stars / grey
  7. DAN – balance & viper / saphir
  8. GAD – army camp / grey
  9. ASHER – olive tree / olive green
  10. NAPHTALI – deer / red
  11. JOSEPH – grapes or wheat or ox & antelope / black
  12. BENJAMIN – wolf / all colors of the tribes


Maps representing how the land of ancient Israel was divided into 11 sections corresponding with 11 of the 12 tribes. Joseph fathered two tribes: Ephraim & Manasseh – his sons, these later became indepentdent tribes. Levites (tribe of Levi) were the priests and they had no territory of their own.



Creating Patterns for Illustrations

From the inception of the project I had an idea to include natural patterns in my illustrations. Regarding how the symbols are represented I needed patterns of: bricks, fabric, grass, leaves, metal, sand, sky, stones, water, wood & others. I developed patterns from photos, some of them were taken for this project, some of them I took from my home photo library. In the end I haven’t used as many patterns as I initially planned, however some of them can be found in illustrations of the tribes: Simeon, Zebulun, Issachar, Asher & Naphtali. Below is my pattern library I ended up with.

patterns library 1

patterns library 2







patterns library 3


patterns library 4





Sketches & Development of 12 Symbols

Each symbol was developed separately, starting from rough sketches on the paper and then moving to Illustrator. My intitial idea was to experiment with shapes & lines – a crucial factor was to use symmetry and keep balance in each individual design and all twelve altogether. Once in Illustrator I used Rulers & Grid options to help me maintain the symmetry & straigh lines. Each time, before I started to draw in Illustrator, I created  a layer – called ‘middle’ – I draw a vertical line through a page and a circle (both having the same middle point), and I used it as a reference point through a whole drawing process.

Each tribe has its own color, which I decided to use for the background in the illustrations. After the first printed color/pattern check I needed to change some of the gradients to plain colors, as they didn’t print well.


SIMEON – I used an outline of the land of MANASSEH, where the city od Schechem was, and placed a symbol of the city (the tower) inside the map.

LEVI – the name of the tribe was engraved on the stone. One stone is corresponding to one tribe. The arrangement of the stones on the breastplate is 3 across and 4 down, as instructed by God (Exodus 28). There is a debate over what these stones may have actually been. The ancient names of these stones many times do not translate to gemstones that we recognize today. The stones were lined up with the birth order of the tribes and were written from right to left as written in hebrew.

BENJAMIN – as Benjamin represents all colors of the tribes, I placed the color of each tribe, in order, on the ‘rainbow’ above the wolf.


Frame Design

I started the design of the frame at the same time what illustrations, as it needed to cooperate with all of them. It was a sensible approach, as I could checked/matched it along the way.

Years ago I bought a lovely wall calendar – Illuminations: The Kennicot Bible: A Jewish Calendar from the Bodleian Library: 2005-2006 – which I still keep. When I was looking for symbols, which I could integrate into frame I came back to the illuminations from the calendar. Illustration (below) is marking the end of Chronicles MS. Kennicott I, folio 352 recto from the Kennicott Bible. I redraw this image and used part of it as a detail in my frame.


I wanted the frame to be gold, however it’s hard to achieve it with a digital printing (and with no budget and limited printing facilities available). Once I finished sketching the frame in Illustrator and experimenting with colors, I printed a color proof which I was pleased with. I used a goldish color for the frame and its lighter value for outlines in the illustrations, as well as a color scheme for the book.




Book & Postcards

As half of the pages in the book were illustrations I decided no to use too many colors for the pages with the text. There was a one page with text for each tribe with the name of the tribe in English & Hebrew, symbol of the tribe, a text in a frame with basic characteristic of the tribe and a related citation from the Bible – Jacob’s blessing (Genesis 49) . I design a simple drop cap for this text. The color of the circle in the drop cap represents the color of the tribe and is the same, as the background color in illustrations.

I designed a cover for the book, which was also used for a set of postcards.


Final printed book and set of postcards.