Randall Gray’s Flag for Oregon

By Ted Kaye; revised by Scott Mainwaring
Originally published in The Vexilloid Tabloid #30, October 2011

The PFA has honored Randall Gray of West Linn for his re-design of the Oregon State Flag, which received the most votes in The Oregonian‘s contest in 2008-09.

In a celebration hosted in February by Mike Hale at Elmer’s Flag & Banner, the mapmaker for Clackamas County was given a 3’ x 5’ version of his winning design.

Mike Hale presents designer Randall Gray with his “new” Oregon Flag
Mike Hale presents designer Randall Gray with his “new” Oregon Flag

Most members of the Portland Flag Association came for the ceremony.  At the end of the event, Mike Hale took us all on a behind-the-scenes tour of the flag store.

Mike Hale talks flag fabrication in the sewing loft at Elmer’s Flag & Banner.
Mike Hale talks flag fabrication in the sewing loft at Elmer’s Flag & Banner.

The story of the flag contest is reported in NAVA News No. 205 January-March 2010, including designs of ten finalists.  A more detailed case study calls out 12 lessons learned for would-be vexillonaires.

Interestingly, two PFA members (out of over 2,000 entrants) had designs in that top ten.  (Doug Lynch was one, and we invited Randall Gray to join the PFA  after the contest.)

The Oregonian had sponsored an effort to redesign the state’s flag in anticipation of Oregon’s 150th birthday in February 2009.

The quality of the entries was stunning—hundreds of them would have made a successful state flag.  While professional graphic artists participated and submitted spectacular designs, so did amateurs and schoolchildren.

Mike Hale and Ted Kaye helped  with an initial culling process. In two weekend sessions of 2-3 hours each, they selected about 240 entries for further consideration by the flag jury.

After that jury selected the 10  finalists, newspaper readers gave Randall’s beaver design top votes.  However, without a legislative plan and no support from the governor, the effort to update the official flag went nowhere.

The Oregonian described Randall’s design process:  “Always interested in flags and design, Gray was unimpressed with the front of the Oregon flag.  But the back, with the beaver, was another matter.  ‘The backside is the start of something good.’”  The meaning:  “Blue and gold for the state colors with green to represent trees and wilderness Oregon was blessed with.  White contrasts between the dark blue and green.  The beaver from the current flag links us with the past.  The star represents Oregon’s place in the Union.”

Elmer’s Flag and Banner generously made up the flag, using the beaver image from another entrant, Tom Lincoln.  It is likely the only such flag extant in that design!


Related links

Sure, we’ve heard from about 100 people who don’t want to give up on the current flag. They told us to go back to California! But actually, we don’t want to give up on the current flag, even though its history is not all that storied. Reporter Michael Milstein wrote about how the design was whipped up in a hurry by the Legislature in 1925 without any community input. And not to put Michael back into the crosshairs of people who like the flag just as it is, but the contest was his notion. He wanted an event, to help launch the 150th anniversary of statehood in February, that would knit together the community. That’s exactly what happened. And, we’ve gotten some very cool, innovative flag designs from readers that reflect our iconic landscape.

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Author: SDM

Ethnography * Technology * Design

1 thought on “Randall Gray’s Flag for Oregon”

  1. One of many very good submissions, this proposed green-white-blue flag with beaver and star by Randall Gray just show how difficult it is to change the ill-suited blue and yellow state flag of Oregon.

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