SF Flag Redesigns

Roman Mars is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, so it is no surprise that the redesign of the San Francisco flag has drawn his attention.  In May of this year he announced that his radio show and podcast 99% Invisible was teaming up with design software multinational Autodesk to support a redesign activity, including the sanfranciscoflag.com website and @SFflag twitter feed.

The flag of the city and county of San Francisco, designed by John M. Gamble in 1900, adopted 1940, it refers to the rebuilding of the city after fires in the 1850s.
The flag of the city and county of San Francisco, designed by John M. Gamble in 1900, adopted 1940.  The phoenix refers to the rebuilding of the city after fires in the 1850s, the motto “Gold in Peace and Iron in War” refers to the city’s role in sending troops to the Philippines in the Spanish-American War.

(As American city flags go, it’s far from the worst example.  It ranked 35 out of 66 in a survey of NAVA members asked to assess design quality.  This August, prolific San Francisco blogger and humorist Burrito Justice pronounced it “meh”.)

Roman Mars has been campaigning for a new flag via 99% Invisible since at least 2011, so a number of proposals predate his TED Talk earlier this year:

2012 proposal by Shorty Fatz, aka Samuel Rodriguez, commissioned by the SF online magazine The Bold Italic.
2012 proposal by Shorty Fatz, aka Samuel Rodriguez. This was commissioned by the SF online magazine The Bold Italic, which has published some of the many design sketches Rodriguez produced as he refined his ideas.
Blogger and humorist Burrito Justice has suggested an updating of the motto.
Burrito Justice suggested in 2013 an updating of the motto.  Alas, “NOT SMUG JUST BETTER” is still rendered illegibly in yellow on a white background.
Somewhat more seriously (?) Burrito Justice also proposed this simplification and stylization of the current flag.
Somewhat more seriously (?) Burrito Justice also proposed this simplification and stylization of the current flag.
Given San Francisco's re-emergence as a digital technology center, this
Given San Francisco’s re-emergence as a digital technology center, this “8-bit” version is strangely apropos. (Design by Burrito Justice, suggested by Lindsey Adler.)
A more radical redesign by Burrito Justice in his set of 2013 proposals. This one features a landmark, Sutro Tower, beloved by locals for rising above the city's famous fog.
A more radical redesign by Burrito Justice in his set of 2013 proposals. This one features a landmark, Sutro Tower, beloved by locals for rising above the city’s famous fog.

In his TED Talk, Mars presents a couple of redesigns by way of illustration:

One minute clip from Roman Mars’ TED Talk in which he discusses possible redesigns.

Design by Frank Chimero @frank_chimero based on Ted Kaye's suggestion to stylize and simplify, from the TED Talk.
Design by Frank Chimero @frank_chimero based on Ted Kaye’s suggestion to stylize and simplify, from the TED Talk.
2014 design by Neil Mussett @NeilMussett.
2014 design by Neil Mussett @NeilMussett.

Since this year’s TED Talk, not surprisingly, more redesigns have surfaced.

Burrito Justice (yes, him again) proposed this map-based flag. He says:
Burrito Justice (yes, him again) proposed this map-based flag last June. He says: “Like all successful flags I believe my design is so powerful it does not need to be discussed”.  Tell that to the residents of northern San Mateo County, which apparently has been swallowed by the Pacific in his map.
img_3794
Actually, the watery design above is part of a two-flag proposal by Mr. Justice, who says: “On foggy days you will be required to fly this flag.”
Wasel (Woz) Choi in September proposed a highly abstracted map as a flag: the black line is Market Street, the orange rectangle the Golden Gate Bridge. White,
Wasel (Woz) Choi in September proposed a highly abstracted map as a flag: the black line is Market Street, the orange rectangle the Golden Gate Bridge. White, “no color” in the artist’s conception, represents all of the cities ethnicities “peacefully and equally”. (Alas, the ethnicity called “white” spoils this scheme.)
Marc Country on Imgur proposed this update of the current flag.
Marc Country on Imgur proposed this update of the current flag.
Tristan Denyer proposed this design on his twitter feed, @tristandenyer.
Tristan Denyer proposed this design on his twitter feed, @tristandenyer. Are the 7 Xs for the 7 hills of San Francisco, and the Xs a shout-out to Amsterdam?
Maz Ameli tweeted this design:
Maz Ameli, @mazameli, tweeted this design on May 26th: “SF Flag: 7-point star for the rising phoenix, 7 hills of SF, and gold nugget. 2 stripes for the bridges.”

It’s worth pointing out, however, that none of the above suggestions are necessarily under consideration by the San Francisco Flag Redesign project, which still is operating in a kind of “stealth mode”: the website simply points to the TED Talk and gives one to opportunity “to sign up to get involved” (via an email address), and the @SFflag twitter feed has much more on other city’s flag redesign efforts than on San Francisco’s.  What publicity there is has come from journalists and commentators:

San Francisco Magazine went to far as to commission four proposals from designers in Lamar Anderson’s article, What Would a Redesigned San Francisco Flag Even Look Like? (30 September 2015)  They are:

Jeremy Fish proposal.
Jeremy Fish proposal. “I thought I’d make a more tattoo-able version of it.”
Eric Heiman proposal:
Eric Heiman proposal: “the sky, the fog, the land”. The circle is a sun, and an O for Ohlone (early Indian inhabitants). The green triangles are “code for Twin Peaks and a reference to seismic activity”.

Jeremy Mende proposal symbolizes
Jeremy Mende proposal symbolizes “the city’s population of transplants” with a shilhouette of the non-native bison in Golden Gate Park (unfortunately quoting the Wyoming flag in the process). It also quotes the LGBT flag (diversity), and the star on the California state flag (though it’s black “because [SF] is a land of inward thinkers, people who are into the dark matter behind ideas”) (!).
Rachel Berger's proposal symbolizes changing fortunes:
Rachel Berger’s proposal symbolizes changing fortunes: “the story of [SF] has never been flat”. It can be hung with the arrow ascending, or descending, depending on the flyer’s mood.
According to the ABC 7 News account, the redesign project is expected to announce a formal design competition next month.  Until then, these proposals and others are filling the vacuum, some more humorously than others.

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Author: SDM

Ethnography * Technology * Design

2 thoughts on “SF Flag Redesigns”

  1. Neil Musset’s design is the best, but it would substitute Black by White. The reason? Well yellow and white were the colors of the border, and they are both pale, which is suitable for a bacground. The vertical line formed by the 2 rectangles means that the city is standing after the fire, and reinforce the message of the Phoenix. I would probably keep the bird red rather than black, as red, yellow and white are colors associated to fire. But black for a bird raising from ashes is also meaningful.

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