Update: Robert Lenz’s design “Sunrise Over the Lake” won the contest.
Steve Kodis is on a mission to create a new flag for the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His group, Milwaukee Flag, is currently soliciting designs from the public. Anyone is invited to submit a design (up to five of them, actually), until the deadline of November 30.
Like many vexillonaires sprouting up around the US, Kodis was inspired by Roman Mars’ TED Talk, Why city flags may be the worst-designed thing you’ve never noticed. In this case, though, Milwaukee’s flag was specifically singled out in that talk (and in Ted Kaye’s compiled guidelines, Good Flag, Bad Flag, on which Mars’ relied) as an excellent example of a poorly designed flag:
“Even a quick glance shows that Milwaukee’s flag is, as Mars said in his TED talk, ‘a hot mess.’ An eccentric jumble of symbols, it includes a stereotypical Indian chief, a Civil War-era Milwaukee battle flag, an awkwardly large red-and-white lake freighter and what appears to be a factory worker in a flying saucer, adorned with Aladdin’s lamp.” (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s coverage, quoted in Milwaukee Flag Journal entry, 6 July 2015)
According to Mars, the flying saucer is not the worst aspect of the current flag:
But what puts the Milwaukee flag over the top, almost to the point of self-parody, is on it is a picture of the Civil War battle flag of the Milwaukee regiment. So that’s the final element in it that just makes it that much more ridiculous, that there is a flag design within the Milwaukee flag.
Kodis’ Milwaukee Flag project is not the first attempt to change the city’s flag. A 2001 attempt failed, despite there having been five finalists chosen from over one hundred submissions. A 2013 attempt, branded MKE Flag, was similarly unsuccessful (though it’s Facebook page and URL, mkeflag.com, live on — the URL redirecting people to milwaukeeflag.com). In fact, the 2013 effort prompted at least one impassioned defense of the existing flag:
Like the city, it makes no pretense at simplicity and is a little rough around the edges. Like Milwaukee’s population, it’s unconcerned with being fashionable and proudly holds dear to the icons that define the city – even icons like County Stadium and the Milwaukee Arena that have long since disappeared.
But most importantly, Milwaukee’s flag is in-your-face in its authenticity. I remember gazing at it for the first time and thinking, “Someone, sometime, for some reason wanted this thing to represent their entire city, and that is mind-bogglingly awesome.” Maybe it’s a little bit of the East Side hipster in me, but I think Milwaukee’s flag is beautiful in its absolute scorn for the modern concept of beauty. (Dustin Weis, In defense of Milwaukee’s flag, 7 August 2013)
It will be interesting to see what happens this time around.