Fargo – A Flag for the Flagless?

Update: Taylor Homoky’s design (see below) won the Arts Partnership contest. On 16 December 2015 the city’s Arts and Culture Commission voted to forward it along with other designs to the city’s communications manager. We couldn’t find any subsequent news regarding Fargo’s plans (or lack thereof) to adopt a flag.

Citizens of the flagless city of Fargo, North Dakota are thinking about changing that, thanks to an initiative by local arts activist Jackson Ridl. The teenaged Ridl already has had some success in accomplishing ambitious projects. Earlier this year he orchestrated a Kickstarter campaign to help realize Gary Greff’s Enchanted Highway, “a collection of the world’s largest scrap metal sculptures”. The $21,000 raised was the state’s most-funded Kickstarter ever.

Jackson Ridl, 19
Jackson Ridl, 19

Like many vexillonaires (flag activists) around the country, Ridl was inspired by Roman Mars’ TED Talk Why city flags may be the worst-designed thing you’ve never noticed, which has brought unprecedented exposure to Ted Kaye’s Good Flag, Bad Flag and the potential for great design to contribute to civic life.

Ridl wisely got the institutional backing of The Arts Partnership of Fargo (theartspartnership.net), which is hosting the design competition on their servers.  Submissions (78 in all) were accepted from residents and former residents of Fargo, Moorhead, and West Fargo through the month of August. Online voting on favorites — “what flag they think best represents The Land of the Free, and The Home of the Lutefisk” said Arts Partnership Executive Director Dayna Del Val —  ended yesterday.

Here’s what happens next:

… the 15 flags with the most votes will be presented to the Arts Partnership, and the Arts and Culture Commission [created last December] for review. These groups will then select one design to present to the Fargo City Commission for possible adoption. The winning artist will receive $250 from The Arts Partnership and credit for designing the winning community-voted flag.*

*Upon completion of the selection based on community votes and payment for the winning design, another round of public voting may occur at the discretion of The Arts Partnership and the Fargo Art and Culture Commission. The original top 15 flags will be admitted to this round depending on opting-in to the rules of the second round of voting. …

This is the first time that the community has attempted to create a city flag. It is important to note that if the Fargo City Commission does not approve of the flag design it may not be adopted.

Though the city government is not officially involved at this stage, mayor Tim Mahoney has been quoted: “I never expected, to be honest with you, all these [submitted] flags. There’s a lot of people who put flags in. It’s kind of cool. It kind of shows the interest in the arts community to contribute.”

It appears that submissions took the form of a single image file, which can make understanding the intended symbolism difficult. (A couple submissions had descriptive text in the image itself, but it’s unclear whether this gave them an advantage or disadvantage — possibly a disadvantage, as none of these look to be among the most popular vote getters.)  In a radio interview on Fargo’s WDAY-AM, Ridl pointed to the branding of North Dakota State University (Go, Bisons!) as one source of inspiration evident in a number of designs.

Homes along Wheatland Pines Drive, in south Fargo, fly North Dakota State University Bison flags. Photo by Dave Wallis, The Forum.
Homes along Wheatland Pines Drive, in south Fargo, fly North Dakota State University Bison flags. From Grace Lyden’s 9/18/15 story Bison flag for every home is goal on one south Fargo street. Photo by Dave Wallis, The Forum.

Here are the two submissions that included text (the first of which will look strangely familiar to residents of a certain Oregon city at the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette):

Look familiar, Portlanders?

A flag with a name: Gateway to the West.

The most popular submission is this remarkably simple but unconventional design by a local Microsoft employee, Taylor Homoky:

WEB_FargoFlag_Crtsy-The-Arts-Partnership

And here are some other popular submissions:

Fargo-City-Flag1-435x260

Fargo-Flag_Shane-Reetz-465x245

FargoFlag-339x260

Fargo-Flag-Final-442x260

wheat-flag1-403x260-cropped

fargo-flag-3-428x260

COF_Flag1-0806-1-336x260-cropped

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Author: SDM

Ethnography * Technology * Design

One thought on “Fargo – A Flag for the Flagless?”

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