Areal Density by Susan Murrell

From Ted Kaye’s report on his trip to the Bay Area in Vexilloid Tabloid  #49:

Areal Density, an installation by Susan Murrell in PDX Terminal A
Areal Density (detail).  Photograph by Ted Kaye.

In Portland Airport’s Concourse A, Susan Murrell’s installation Areal Density utilized multiple flag-shaped objects (although apparently not representing actual flags).  She teaches art at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande.

From the Port of Portland News Release:

“Technology has fundamentally changed our connection to the landscape,” Murrell said. “The horizon has defined our relationship to the world; now with our expanding perspective, we feel a kinship with microscopic images and aerial views of planets. Similarly, the clean lines of grids, maps, and charts have become a cultural shorthand for quantifying, organizing and even designating ownership of new information. Within the context and tradition of abstraction, my work deals with this shift in visual knowledge.”

The installation apparently closed last month, but more information and imagery can be found on Susan Murrell’s website: Areal Density is one of many Installations; the flag-objects are a recurring motif in her work, including some of her Two-dimensional work


Ted Kaye on the air

Ted Kaye’s 15 minutes of fame—  in small portions….
Ted Kaye’s 15 minutes of fame— in small portions….

Your loquacious Vexilloid Tabloid editor has recently been interviewed on Slate (Mike Pesca’s podcast “The Gist”); 99% Invisible (the “tiny radio show about design” by Roman Mars); and National Public Radio’s All Things Considered (“What does its chosen banner say about ISIS”).  In the interviews he discussed the flags of the UK (after Scotland…), New Zealand, Ukraine (and breakaway territories), the Islamic State, and—most importantly—Portland!

To record the 4-minute NPR/ATC segment,  he visited the studios of Oregon Public Broadcasting, and spoke from there to Tess Vigeland, former OPB reporter and now a guest host of All Things Considered at NPR West in Los Angeles.

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The Vexilloid Tabloid is the bimonthly newsletter of the Portland Flag Association, edited by Ted Kaye.  Each issue features the What’s That Flag? quiz, Flags in the News (news stories featuring flags), Flutterings (highlights from the last PFA meeting), and Portland Flag Miscellany (news about Portland’s city flag), as well as feature articles on flag-related topics by PFA members and other contributors.

We announce each issue here on as a blog post, and add it to the online archive (where you can find all back issues). We also send it out to our email subscribers list as a PDF attachment.  If you would like to be added to that list, just email

Flag Wrapping Paper

Ted Kaye reporting on PFA’s last meeting in VexTab #49:

David Koski is experimenting with repeating designs derived from flag images, using various transformative algorithms.  Every one is based on a component of the full flag.  Here are examples based on the United States flag.  David has also developed versions based on the Union Jack and the flag of the city of Portland.









He shared these designs at the November meeting.  They might be used for wrapping paper or other similar decorative purposes.  PFA members applauded his creativity and urged him to pursue marketing the concept.  Wouldn’t it sell well in Chicago, for example?



San Francisco’s Hayes Valley Flag Wall

More from Bay Area Flag Report by Ted Kaye, in VexTab #49:

540 Laguna St., San Francisco
540 Laguna St., San Francisco

In San Francisco’s Hayes Valley neighborhood, Joe Theisen spruced up his building at 540 Laguna St. with 33 holes in the façade and first famously displayed the flags of all 2014 World Cup countries (plus Ireland).  In September new flags went up.

Now referred to as “the Flag Wall” (or, less popularly, “the House of Holes”), the building currently flies 10 flags that spell out “Hayes Valley” (two Ls share a flag) and 23 flags designed by artists affiliated with the nearby Hayes Valley Art Coalition.


The Flag Wall
The Flag Wall



What is the Most Patriotic Color?

…asked Time Magazine in its “Answers Issue”, Sept. 8–15, 2014.

After downloading images of 196 national flag from, Time added up the number of pixels of each color, simplified them, and grouped them into categories of white, black, red, blue, green, and yellow using a simple algorithm.

Time thus determined the frequency of colors by area in national flags.  Although perhaps flawed in detail, overall it is a sound analysis.

For an interactive browser, visit

(This item was published in our bimonthly newsletter, The Vexilloid Tabloid, Issue 48.)

Red: 31%, Blue: 21%, White: 18%, Green: 15%, Yellow: 10%, Black: 5%. Source:
Red: 31%, Blue: 21%, White: 18%, Green: 15%, Yellow: 10%, Black: 5%. Source:

How did Portland get such a nice flag?

99logoOur very own Ted Kaye sat down with popular design podcaster Roman Mars to talk flag design and tell the story of the Portland flag: how a good design was botched by bureaucrats, and many years later — with some activist vexillology on the part of its designer Douglas Lynch and the PFA — ultimately restored.  For this work, Lynch received the Vexillonnaire Award from the North American Vexillological Association (NAVA) in 2003 — and Portland received what has become one of the most loved municipal flags in the country.

Check out Roman Mars’ podcast 99% Invisible, Episode 140: Vexillonaire (also cross-posted on Slate Magazine’s design blog The Eye as Portland’s Quest for a Better City Flag).  And to learn more about vexillonnaires, jump to the last page (p. 16) of NAVA News Issue 179.