Playful Illustrations Reveal the Quirky and Real Group Names of Animals

Illustrator and designer Mal Jones found the perfect project to keep himself creative for over a year, while also promoting the “illustration chops” of Rocketkoi—a full-service design company he co-founded with his wife Sarah Meskin. The artist embarked on a playful series about animals and the unique words used to describe their collective groups. The project is creatively referred to as Nomencreatures—a portmanteau of the terms nomenclature and creatures. Coined by fellow illustrator Lisa Bee during a brainstorming session, Jones tells us, “It seemed pretty apropos for a collection of art about the names of groups of creatures.”

While we’re familiar with some group names—pride of lions, school of fish, herd of cattle—Jones opts for the lesser known words that make these groupings much more interesting. The illustrator decided to play on the double meanings of these terms, and suddenly a sleuth of bears is a grizzly version of Sherlock Holmes, a wisdom of wombats is a Wiccan gathering of Harry Potter proportions, and a conspiracy of lemurs looks like a trio of primates insisting that Elvis is not dead.

The completed series consists of 26 delightful illustrations of groups of animals, in alphabetical order. “I wanted to do a series so I had a list to go down, one by one. It guaranteed that I would actually finish it,” Jones told us in an email. “I have no idea where the spark of the idea for the animal groups themselves came from though. Odds are high I was watching PBS and heard the Fez of Armadillos one.” And so he began with a Fez of Armadillos and worked his way down to a Dazzle of Zebras. “I did them in alphabetical order so that I could see the progress of getting them done. I drew them all with a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and those red pencils teachers use to grade papers. Then I’d scan in the art. So according to the date on the scanned art for the armadillos, I started on January 3, 2015.”

Now, after a year and half, Nomencreatures is complete. Though Jones has covered a selection of the animal kingdom, he tells us: “There are a couple that popped up after I made the list that I’d want to do in the future—a passel of possums; a business of ferrets; a band of gorillas.” For now, you can purchase prints of the 26 original illustrations through inPRNT.

Above: PARADE of elephants

SLEUTH of bears


MESS of iguanas

BED of sloths

FEZ of armadillos

WISDOM of wombats

MOB of kangaroos

TOWER of giraffes

CONSPIRACY of lemurs

FLAMBOYANCE of flamingoes

LABOR of moles

WATCH of nightingales

ARRAY of hedgehogs

RAFT of otters

CRASH of rhinos

COMMITTEE of vultures

ARMY of xenopus

BLOOM of jellyfish

DAZZLE of zebras

Mal Jones: Website | Twitter | Blog | Rocketkoi
Nomencreatures: Website | inPRNT

My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by Mal Jones.

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