South Bend, Indiana Has a Great New Flag

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.)

South Bend’s new flag: “The six points of the star represent the city’s six council districts, while the blue and white lines evoke the river at the heart of South Bend, our physical and virtual connectivity, and our industrial roots.”

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:

South_Bend_Flag_1 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).”

South_Bend_Flag_2 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.”

South_Bend_Flag_3 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.)

5 thoughts on “South Bend, Indiana Has a Great New Flag”

  1. Not all of us are pleased with the flag or the process. It seems to me that a Vexillologist would have immediately recognized that the red 6-pointed star is a duplicate of the stars used on the flag of Chicago. Invoking the rules #5:”5. Be Distinctive or Be Related; Avoid duplicating other flags, but use similarities to show connections.” and #2: Use Meaningful Symbolism
    The flag’s images, colors, or patterns should relate to what it symbolizes. (Reference Thematic Elements [The River, Connectivity, Ethnically Diverse Heritage, Innovation.])the alert Vexillologist should have challenged this design. “Are you aiming to show a connection to Chicago? Does this star (or anything else in the design) clearly symbolize the city’s heritage, or ethnic diversity? Vexillology and Heraldry are cousins in the use of symbolism. Some symbols have clear referents. Due diligence on the part of the designer and the vexillologist should elucidate the symbols chosen. You can’t just say that a symbol such as a star represents X unless it has historically been used in the culture, practice or previous symbolism of the city, region, state or nation who will be displaying it. A new symbol may be derived from a geographic feature or landmark of the place it represents if unique and only then it is useful without recourse or reference to previous heraldic or vexillologic constraints.

  2. This new sbn flag with no seal looks very childish. It’s embarrassing. Looks somewhat middle Eastern. .
    Not very professional looking at all.

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