The OKC Flag Project

You can add Oklahoma City to the list of cities in which flag design activists have taken up Roman Mars’ call to arms to improve the municipal flag.  They call themselves the OKC Flag Project, and are soliciting design proposals at their website,  okcflag.org.

seal
What is OKC’s current flag? Imagine a white flag with a thin red border with this seal in the center.
nuclear-bottlecap
Why is the “industrial and scientific future” symbolized by a Beryllium atom? And why does it have a bottle cap as its nucleus?
Pops_sign_in_Arcadia
Just outside OKC, on Route 66 in Arcadia, is the world’s largest soda pop bottle. Coincidence?

Despite the nuclear bottlecap, the OKC project sees nothing wrong with the city seal:

To be clear, the OKC Flag Project is not critical of the Oklahoma City Seal. We are just of the belief that a flag should be something more than a city seal on a white flag. (Source: www.okcflag.org/current-flag.html)

Oklahoma City used to use a “banner of arms” based on the city seal as its flag, designed by Mrs. Daniel C. Orcutt for the city’s 75th anniversary in 1965.

flag-1965-1994
Flag of Oklahoma City, 20 July 1965 – 8 February 1994.  Illustration by Dave Martucci from NAVA’s book American City Flags (2003).

It can be argued that the current city flag is a downgrade from this 1965 flag.  How did this happen?  John Purcell in American City Flags writes:

Mayor Ron Norick asked for a new design after learning that residents in the sister city of Taipei, Taiwan, could not immediately recognize Oklahoma in its former city flag.

1125px-Flag_of_Taipei_City.svg
The bilingual flag of Taipei. To fully reciprocate, the 1994 OKC design should have included the city’s name in Chinese, 俄克拉何馬城.

The push for a new city flag began last year when history and geography teacher John Bratt made a presentation to the city council “to get the conversation started”.  In addition to presenting the Good Flag, Bad Flag design principles, he presented three design proposals his students had created.

4109939_orig
Proposed design by John Bratt’s students Shea Hale and Juliana Lara.

The simplest of these was a horizontal bicolor of blue (sky) over red (earth) charged with a black silhouette of the Survivor Tree at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum near the site of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombed by mass-murdering American terrorists in 1995. One of the flag’s designers, Shea Hale, testified “I think it represents Oklahoma City being able to survive tough times like the bombing, tornadoes and any tragedies that come.”

The symbolism of two other designs presented is not as clear:

1955799_orig

8074017_orig.png

A closing note:

American City Flags describes a more complex version of the seal for use on the current flag:

Centered on the field is a shield divided quarterly, its first and fourth quarters in red and second and third quarters in white. A cross is superimposed over the quarters’ inner edges, itself divided into four sections with their colors counterchanged (colors alternated) with the quarter they border; thus, white in the first and fourth quarters, and red in the second and third….

Cognizant of legal actions taken against other U.S. cities (especially, in this case, Edmond, Oklahoma) where crosses on flags have been said to represent Christianity, [flag designer Mark McFarland] maintained that the cross here merely serves as an “artistic divider” to provide sufficient distance among the various symbols.

seal-from-acf-cropped
The counterchanged seal described in American City Flags, but not apparently in actual use.  Illustration by Dave Martucci.

Does anyone know what happened to this version of the seal? Was it officially simplified/Christianized at some point?

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Author: SDM

Ethnography * Technology * Design

3 thoughts on “The OKC Flag Project”

  1. I can explain my students’ flags:

    The top design is the while cameo of a scissor-tailed flycatcher (the state bird) over a blue field (for the state of Oklahoma) with a diagonal red and black stripe (for the “Red Dirt” of central Oklahoma and the oil industry, respectively).
    The second design is a red field (again, for the Red Dirt) behind a crossing of three black lines (Representing I-40, I-35 and Route 66, which intersect in the city) and blue line (representing the nearby Canadian River). The White star in the middle represents Oklahoma City as the State Capital.

  2. Hello:

    I have a general question and I was wondering what people think about it.
    I’m thinking of submitting a couple designs for the OKC flag redesign effort. I was considering using the red shield from the current OKC flag as an element, but removing the small symbols contained within it (nuclear symbol, peace pipe…etc) I thought that this might be a good idea because, firstly, the shield looks quite sharp and, secondly, it would mean that the redesigned flag contained an element of the current city flag, but in a more simplified form.

    However, I just read above about the lawsuits that have been filed in the past against towns such as Edmond, OK, as well as the controversy over the Latin Cross on various city seals and flags.

    I would like to use an element of the current flag but I, of course, don’t want the City of Oklahoma City or myself to get sued over it!

    The City of Oklahoma City says that the shield on the flag symbolizes “the law and protection” rather than Christianity. And the reason that I would put it on a redesigned flag is that it appears on the current flag, and I would wish to carry an element over. This would be in order to have a connection with the previous (now current) city flag.

    Do you think it would be more trouble than it’s worth to use the shield because of the threat of lawsuits, or, is it fine because it is an element already established on the current flag?

    Just curious. I welcome thoughts and feedback.

    Thank you.

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