As we reported last October, in honor of the city’s sesquicentennial, the SB150 Committee hosted a public contest at the beginning of a carefully designed process to design a new city flag for South Bend, Indiana. After selecting three finalists, gathering public feedback, and creating a composite design, the city’s elected officials today revealed the final result: a great new flag! (It will be officially adopted on 14 March 2016.)
Those interested in designing processes that balance public participation with professional design judgment would do well to emulate the process South Bend used, as laid out in today’s press release.
As in many design competitions, three finalist designs (out of 200 submissions in this case) were put before the public for a vote. Here are the three finalists:
Jeffrey Koenig’s design: “This design was inspired from a beloved lapel pin that is thought to have been created during the Kernan administration. The pin has a yellow background and blue river—in an “s” shape—going through the center. There are five, six-sided stars across the top. The six-sided star was chosen to represent the South Bend’s six council districts. There are five stars to mark the city’s five eras, as identified in South Bend 150 literature—Early History, Incorporation, Peak Industry, Rediscovery, and Innovation (present time).”
Jesse Villagrana’s design: “The flag consists of three symbols: the navy chevron (arrow) represents the St. Joseph River and South Bend’s connectivity – by road (within one day’s drive of South Bend, one can reach 80 percent of the U.S. population), rail, air, river and fiberoptics. The six-pointed star represents South Bend’s ethnically diverse population. And the yellow represents innovation—different people, working on different things, colliding together in unexpected ways and bringing new ideas to South Bend.”
Garrett Gingerich’s design: “The focal point of this design is a red star that represents South Bend, and the passion, energy, and determination that can be felt throughout our community. The star’s six points reflects the city’s six council districts, and is positioned within the far-left area of white, a color that represents the city’s diverse cultural and religious influences. The initial blue area symbolizes the St. Joseph River which brought Native Americans and settlers to the area. The “s” shape also invokes the city’s name—South Bend. The thin strip of white is symbolic of peace, as taken from the city of South Bend seal, and serves as a bridge to the future, which is represented with the remaining blue, to be associated with stability, confidence, and innovation—characteristics intended to keep South Bend’s pioneering spirit alive.”
Rather than simply advance the design that garnered the most votes as “the winner”, the public feedback was used as input to a final design stage:
A flag design committee—consisting of professional designers, marketing professionals, city officials, and SB150 representatives—put forward three finalists for public input. [… This] input, collected in person and online, led to over 1,000 comments on these three designs. The feedback was compiled and the committee produced a final design which incorporated the public input and integrated elements of all three finalist designs.
Here’s a visualization of the process leading from the old city flag, through three finalists, and the new flag:
As we remarked earlier, South Bend’s process was also distinguished by having a great deal of top-down feedback to would-be designers regarding symbolism, themes to draw upon, and mandatory adherence to the Good Flag, Bad Flag principles. All these added rules and constraints have appeared to have really paid off.
Congratulations to South Bend, Indiana for your fine new flag! (And thanks to Chad Crabtree of the South Bend Flag Committee to calling attention to today’s unveiling on the Flags and Vexillology group on Facebook.)