“Sunrise Over the Lake” Wins Milwaukee Flag Contest

The latest effort to have Milwaukee, Wisconsin adopt a new flag reached a critical milestone on June 14th (Flag Day) when the winning proposed design was announced before a packed audience at radio station 88Nine. After over 6000 people responded to an online survey to rate the five finalist proposals on a scale of 1 to 10, Robert Lenz’s “Sunrise Over the Lake” emerged as the top-rated option with a score of 6.89.  (DeChazier Stokes-Johnson’s “The ‘M’ Star” came in second with a 6.26 score.)

The five finalists. Top row: Three Rivers (Cameron Pothier), Cream City Star (Jon Grider), and Golden Arrow (Chanya Hughes). Bottom row: Sunrise Over the Lake (Robert Lenz) and The “M” Star (DeChazier Stokes-Johnson).

The final hurdle for the groups pushing for a new flag — a joint effort of the People’s Flag of Milwaukee Design Initiative (led by graphic designer Steve Kodis) and Greater Together (a non-profit led by Ken Hanson working for racial and economic equality) — is to convince a majority of alderpersons on the Milwaukee Common Council to vote to adopt the design as the official flag.  As part of this lobbying effort, the new flag has its own Facebook page (facebook.com/sunriseflag) and merchanidise for sale (inktothepeople.com/greater-together-mke).  (The Twitter account @sunriseflag, on the other hand, is a dormant Japanese political feed.)

The PFA’s Ted Kaye helped select the 50 semifinalists (and 15 honorable mentions) out of 1,006 submissions to the design contest.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • None of the five finalist designs was on average very highly rated, as the 6.89 winning score was out of a maximum rating of 10. But 6.89 is an absolutely stellar score compared to the current flag’s score of 1.59 on a 0-10 scale in NAVA’s 2004 City Flag Survey.
  • The five finalist designs consisted of a stylized map (Three Rivers), a stylized picture (Sunrise), and three more abstract designs. Did the voting public show a preference for pictorial designs?  Perhaps, but the second-place showing of the “M” Star could argue against this.
  • The Milwaukee chapter of AIGA interviewed Robert Lenz about his flag design in May. In it he says he hoped the design to convey the emotions of optimism, happiness, pride, peace, and love.
  • Blogger Jessica McBride listed 11 things the new Milwaukee flag looks like, from the flag of Japan to the Obama campaign logo.
  • This is the fourth attempt — at least — to change the current flag since it was adopted in the 1954.  Efforts in 1975,  2001, and 2013 went no where.  For a summary, see our blog post Designs Sought for New Milwaukee Flag from last October; for an excellent detailed history of the flag efforts in Milwaukee, see Flying Milwaukee’s Flag on the Borchert Field “online museum”.
Roman Mars singled out Milwaukee’s “hot mess” of a flag as an example of poor municipal flag design.  It ranked 147th out of 150 flags in NAVA’s 2004 American City Flag Survey.

For more information on the People’s Flag of Milwaukee, check out these Soundcloud interviews for radio 88Nine:


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