South Bend Hosts Rule-Based Competition

Add South Bend, Indiana to your list of US cities working on new flag designs this year.  If you would like to participate, you have until 5:00 PM Central Time on November 16th to upload a flag design to be considered. (You can also submit by mail or in person.)

The current flag of South Bend, Indiana. The chair of SB150 has said:
The current flag of South Bend, Indiana. The chair of SB150 has said: “We’ve come to realize the current South Bend flag is a bad design. It doesn’t really speak to people.” (From Margaret Fosmoe South’s article, South Bend seeks new design for city flag. Photo by Santiago Flores, South Bend Tribune.)

South Bend’s contest is a bit different than the others, for two related reasons:

  1. Rather than arising bottom-up from one or more interested citizens, the initiative to find a new flag is being run by the city itself, via South Bend 150, a non-profit formed to celebrate this year’s sesquicentennial.
  2. Designers are being asked to conform to a set of pre-specified rules (or else to justify why they have chosen not to).

The city is asking would-be designers to symbolize, in some fashion they can explain, four “major themes that collectively represent South Bend’s identity”:

  1. The St. Joseph River, a bend in which gives the city it’s name
  2. Connectivity, via transportation and communication, including the assertion that the city “sits at the intersection of six national fiber routes — providing a form of digital connectivity that is unlike anywhere else in the country”
  3. Ethnically Diverse Heritage, including a long list of ethnicities: “Miami, Potawatomi, French, Hispanic, Polish, Irish, Italian, African-American, Hungarian, Belgian, German…”
  4. Innovation, that “manifested itself through products like the Oliver Chilled Plow and Studebaker automobiles, … and the world’s smartest sewer system.”

In addition, designers should limit themselves to only the “South Bend color palette” of blue, red, and yellow should be used (and, begrudgingly, white, which “may be included if the design requires”).

From the contest website: Current “South Bend” Logos All Tend to Use a Similar Color Palette...the
From the contest website: Current “South Bend” Logos All Tend to Use a Similar Color Palette…the “South Bend Color Palette”

Finally, like the other contests that point designers to the Good Flag, Bad Flag principles (and Roman Mars’ TED Talk that brings them to life), the South Bend contest makes adherence to these mandatory.

Once the designs are submitted, the SB150 Committee will decide the winning design, with public input only one of the factors it will consider:

Representatives of the SB150 Committee will select the design finalists. Residents will have a chance to weigh in on these designs throughout the month of December, which will help determine the winner.  Public input, quality of design, meaningful explanation of design and elements, and design adaptability are among the criteria that will be considered in selecting the winning flag. The winning design will be announced in early 2016.  Winning the competition, however, does not guarantee that the flag will be officially adopted.

In terms of informing best practice, it is valuable to have, in effect, different experiments on flag design and adoption being conducted in different cities.  It’s certainly possible that by being more stringent than most in its design brief, South Bend will actually facilitate greater creativity and quality in the designs it receives.  Keep tuned over the next few months as this Indiana experiment yields its results.

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Author: SDM

Ethnography * Technology * Design

4 thoughts on “South Bend Hosts Rule-Based Competition”

  1. It seems that flags have come on their own. South Bend is an example of that. We can only hope that the flag protocol awareness/process. I think that flag groups using the Internet helps to raise flag awareness?

  2. Good to see that the adherence to vexillological principles will be mandatory.
    We had a bit of an issue here in Fiji trying to get that across, and even many of the final designs were not compliant with those rules… The public reaction was negative.

    As a rule, we can also say that national flags should be more simple than cities flags and that is a great advantage. Cities can have slightly more complex designs, like Portland’s flag, but it should remain very simple.

    I have on advice to designers: try to play with poetry, with symbols FIRST than try to design your flag. A good example is tha new flag proposal in Fiji: https://www.facebook.com/A-New-Flag-for-Fiji-1117120371648599/?ref=bookmarks

    You can “like” the page if you understand what I am saying…

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