Laconian Vexillonaires Struggle Against Inertia

New Hampshire Public Radio reports that city-council supported efforts to find a new flag for the city — the existing monstrosity is pictured above — have run into a roadblock in the form of councilmember Brenda Baer and her bad-design-blind colleagues:

“Why are we changing it, what is so wrong with our present flag?” asked Brenda Baer, who represents Laconia’s Ward 4. She voted against selecting a new design.

“There wasn’t one submission that had anything or said anything about Laconia, whatsoever,” Baer said. “There was no relationship in any of them, to the city.”

Baer says she doesn’t buy the idea that Laconia would somehow suddenly rally together under a new flag.

Vexillonaire Bree Henderson is vowing to continue pushing for action.  The redesign process has gotten as far as six finalists (see below) — so near, but so far.

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Bree Henderson

NHPR is conducting a poll to gather public feedback on the designs.  To vote, scroll to the bottom of: nhpr.org/post/after-crowdsourcing-new-options-laconia-will-keep-its-old-flag-thank-you-very-much

Flag Change in Columbia, South Carolina

by Ted Kaye

Columbia, the capital city of South Carolina, could really use a change of topic when it comes to flags.

As the focal point for display of the Confederate Battle Flag in the South, the city hosted a turning point in the fractious debate, with the removal of the flag from the Confederate Monument in front of the capitol, in July 2015, by order of Governor Nikki Haley.

Calls for the flag’s removal had intensified since the murder of nine people in the Charleston church shooting the month before.

The flag had flown from a pole next to the monument, surrounded by a concrete deck and a small fence.  Within a day of the decision to remove it, all of that was gone and sod was being laid in its place.

The most visible event associated with the flag was its lowering two weeks before as an act of civil disobedience by a young African-American filmmaker, Brittany Ann “Bree” Newsome, whose pole-climb went viral and won praise from Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

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Activist Bree Newsome capturing the Confederate flag on the SC state house grounds, as interpreted by Rebecca Cohen. [Museum May/June 2016]
I visited Columbia in 2009 in conjunction with NAVA 43 (Charleston), and then again this year.  That provided an opportunity to see the monument before (with flag) and after (without flag).

The Columbia Design League and the local arts-commission equivalent had invited me in September to speak about flag design and how the city flag might be improved.

Columbia’s flag has served the city for more than a century, but it represents a bygone era (corn and cotton) with an outdated, ineffective design (a seal on a bedsheet).

Local leaders have begun an effort to consider updating the flag as part of reclaiming civic pride and improving the branding of the city.  A large group came together at the Columbia Museum of Art for a workshop to learn about flag design and discuss ideas for change.

Perhaps this new flag topic will bring positive attention to Columbia.  It may well show how flags are far more than designs on bits of cloth, and can serve a community as a unifying symbol.

 

Voting Ends 8/8 for Albany Flag Contest

In June we announced the launch of a process to find a flag for Albany, Oregon initiated by our fellow Oregonians at GUAVA (Greater Unified Albany Vexillological Association). Five finalists have been chosen and the public has been rating each on a scale of 0 (low) to 10 (high) at cityofalbany.net/flag.  This phase ends this Monday (8 August), so if you want to weigh in on the five contenders and haven’t yet, please do so soon!

Here renditions by graphic designer Steve Kodis (of People’s Flag of Milwaukee fame)  of what the flag designs would look like in flight, along with the “artist’s statement” for each.


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The two green triangles represent Agriculture and Timber, their combined shape is a tree which represents Albany’s status as a tree city. The two blue stripes represent the Calapooia and Willamette rivers. The gray background represents rare metals and roads.


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The triangle wedge on the hoist symbolizes the three names Albany has been called: Takena, New Albany and Albany, with the color green representing the nature and agriculture of Albany.

The 12 pointed star within a circle represents both how the 12 neighborhoods of Albany come together as one community, but it creates 12 white arrows that look inwards towards Albany for guidance as county seat and the Hub City.

The purple stripe is a symbol of Albany’s uniqueness as no current country or American state flag uses purple.

The blue stripe is a symbol of the Willamette River, upon which Albany was founded, and provided the bulk of Albany’s economy during the early years.

The grey stripe is the symbol of Albany being the rare metals capital of the world, upon which much of the current economy is based. The gray stripe also enforces Albany’s uniqueness, as it is a color used rarely in country and American state flags.


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Title, ‘Confluence and Crossroads.’ The blue portions represent the confluence of the Calapooia and Willamette rivers. The gray portion represents Interstate 5 and Hwy 20 intersecting, a nod to our Hub City nickname; the gray is also representative of our metal industry. The green portion represents our agriculture, timber, and Tree City designation. The overall design forms an A representing Albany as well.


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This flag has a Northwest color scheme of green, blue and black.

Green symbolized Albany’s place as the grass seed capital and its emerging filbert tree market.

Blue symbolizes the importance of the Willamette River and Calapoolia River in their role in establishing Albany and Kalapuya Tribe.

Black represents metal because Albany is the “rare metals capital of the world.”

The white bridge give this flag a landmark and ties in with other symbols currently in use throughout Albany.

The angle at the front of the flag symbolizes Albany’s location within the valley and looks like the slope of a roof of one of Albany’s many historic homes.


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Drawing inspiration from the flag of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon, in which the Kalapuya tribe was associated, this design silhouettes our city’s background. Using the colors yellow, reflecting wheat or grain, and blue, resembling our Willamette River, the logo is placed on a green background that represents the forests our state is known for.

Bree Henderson Spurs Laconia, NH To Redesign Its Flag

Situated between lakes Winnipesaukee and Winnisquam, the small New Hampshire city of Laconia has technically had a flag since 1965.  Technically, but not really in practice, as the Laconia Daily Sun notes, “a facsimile flag is encased and hangs on the wall in the Laconia City Council chambers, but that really is the extent of the functionality of the city’s current flag”.

According to city code this is Laconia’s current flag:

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1965 design by high school student Frank Decoster. The top triangle is “International green”, the bottom “International blue”, and the side triangles are white. The city seal in black on gold is centered over a map of Lake Winnipesaukee in dark blue. Lettering is in gold with a black outline.

The “facsimile flag” on display in council chambers is a bit different:

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The flag as rendered for display differs from how it is specified in code: the seal is in brown and gold, the shape of the lake is different, and the lettering is missing its black outline. “Winnipesaukee” starts on the lake but extends far off to the right in difficult-to-read gold-on-white. (Photo by Ed Pierce,  The Citizen.)

In fact, the facsimile flag does not appear to be a flag at all, but more of a poster.  With a bit more digging, we found evidence that at least one actual flag had been made:

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A flag displayed as part of a history exhibit at the public library more closely matches the specifications, though purple has replaced “international blue”. (From a photo by Ed Pierce, The Citizen.)

The obscurity of the Laconian flag is coming to an end, however. Local vexillonaire and entrepreneur Bree Henderson (of the Polished & Proper Barbershop & Shave Parlor), inspired by Roman Mars’ TED Talk, asked the city to sponsor a redesign contest late last year:

Bree Hendersen [sic], a resident in Ward 4, addressed the Council regarding the lack of exposure of the City flag within the City. The City flag is 50 years old, adopted by the City Council in 1965, and has not been raised on flag poles throughout the City as it should be. B. Hendersen reviewed some historical information about the flag and questioned if the City flag is useful to the meaning of the City and suggested that a well-designed and used City flag could assist with the identification of the City. The elements of a flag, such as that of the City of Chicago, is a great example of what a well-designed flag can do. B. Hendersen proposed the idea to have a contest to redesign the City flag to be a better tool for the community. Councilor Lipman noted that this is a great idea and thanked B Hendersen for coming forward. (From the city council meeting minutes of 9 November 2015)

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Bree Henderson, from a photo on Facebook.

Less than a year later, the contest to redesign the flag was launched today.  Prizes of $500, $300, and $200 will be awarded the top three designs. You have until Labor Day (5 September) to submit your proposed design at the Laconia Public Libary or by emailing laconiacityflag2016@gmail.com. For more information, visit the City Flag of Laconia Facebook page.

If all goes well, Laconia should have a fine laconic flag by the end of the year — particularly if designers make use of the guidelines in the itself laconic Good Flag, Bad Flag.

In Limbo, Waiting For Approval

Several city flag redesign proposals have won public competitions, but have not been approved by their city governments as official city flags. Almost all contest winners find themselves in this state immediately after a contest ends, but sometimes the wait for an official decision can extend apparently indefinitely.  What can be done to move these winning designs out of limbo?

Portland, Maine

Newspaper group BDN Maine announced just yesterday that Matthew Morey’s design “Portland Beacon” had won their redesign contest.

06 Portland Beacon by Matthew Moray of South Portland

But the announcement ends with a question, rather than a plan for moving forward:

Congrats to Matthew. Next question: Who wants to take the next step and make this Portland’s next flag?

Bellingham, Washington

Brad Lockhart’s design won a contest organized by the Downtown Bellingham Partnership in March 2016.

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There is an ongoing effort to support this flag, with a the BellinghamFlag Facebook page having over 1,200 supporters. 175 people purchased 194 flags for $7672 through Kickstarter, which attracted enthusiastic participation (and publicity) from Roman Mars.

Though the Kickstarter campaign ended this month, its highly entertaining video is still worth watching.

Fargo, North Dakota

In December 2015 Taylor Homoky’s unconventional design won a contest hosted by a Fargo non-profit, The Arts Partnership working with the city’s Arts and Culture Commission.

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The partnership submitted the winning design, along with 15 other runners-up, to the commission and “asked for direction from the arts commission and city staff on where the flag search should go next” (see Search for Fargo flag now in hands of city staff). That news item concluded:

Dan Mahli, Fargo’s community development administrator, said he will share the flag designs with the public relations office, which is now working on a city slogan.

Mahli said he may also try to get the submitted flag designs examined by design professionals. Hopefully, they can determine which design best matches the new city slogan, Mahli said.

Fargo’s government may be making the mistake of seeing the city flag only as their flag, rather than the people of Fargo’s flag — and thus requiring coordination with the city’s professional branding efforts, and likely greatly limiting its popular adoption (see also: the case of Provo).

This month Fargo’s mayor announced that the new slogan is “Far more”.  No word on the flag, though — far more deliberation is apparently needed.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

As we reported earlier this month “Sunrise Over the Lake” by Robert Lenz won a flag redesign contest organized by vexillonaire Steve Kodis’s group People’s Flag of Milwaukee Design Initiative and a local non-profit.

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Part of the strategy for drumming up support for the flag is the merchandising of Sunrise Over the Lake products, including the People’s Sock of Milwaukee.

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We salute Matt Wild of the Milwaukee Record for possibly the funniest vexillological lede seen so far:

On June 14, following a highly publicized contest that drew more than 1,000 entries, a group called “The People’s Flag of Milwaukee” unveiled, well, the“People’s Flag of Milwaukee.” The new flag was meant to replace the current Milwaukee flag, which, as we all know, violates the five rules of good flag design that Christ preached to his disciples, and was deemed highly odious by podcast host Roman Mars. And when Roman Fucking Mars says change your flag, you change your flag.

But are Milwaukee aldermen listening?

Joplin, Missouri Flag Redesign Contest

Joplin, Missouri has a flag, but you’ll be hard pressed to find an image of it. Online, the best available would appear to be this photograph from blogspot.com.

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Joplin’s flag is rightmost, and lowest. (The difference in height of these flags reflects a common misconception regarding flag etiquette.)

[UPDATE: Jonathan Souder (@dadgif) helpfully provided this much better image.]

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Joplin Code 1977, § 1-22 explains the various features of the flag, from 24 stars (for Missouri’s rank as the 24th state) within a wavy red, white, and blue stripe overlay in the upper fly, to the latin motto Ad Omnia Parata (Ready for All Things) at the bottom. If one motto isn’t enough, the flag also contains another motto Zinc Is King in the seal. (Zinc  — a.k.a. “Jack” — was, historically, king though its reign in Joplin’s economy is long over.) The code goes on to prohibit any use of the flag without “express authorization of the city” — pretty much making impossible widespread use by Jopliners.

A private group naming itself #joplinflag is seeking to change this. Starting today (if it goes as scheduled) and through 8 September they are accepting design proposals on their website at joplinflag.com/submit.  After finalists are announced on 15 September, and voting on them ends 15 October, the winning design will be announced on 20 October and designated “the people’s flag of Joplin”.

Houston, We Have A Problem

Houston’s flag is a subject of criticism.  For example, in covering how Texas cities fared in the NAVA ranking of 150 U.S. city flags  John Nova Lomax in Texas Monthly wrote:

And after [Dallas’ flag at number 21] there’s a huge drop-off to number 55: Houston, where the flag dates back to 1840, when the city was all of four years old. Just as we don’t allow pre-K kids to get inked up, we should not allow toddler cities to attempt to brand themselves for all eternity.

Although a locomotive is the dominant element here, this represented an invitation more than a reality: no train would churn into Houston until years later. And although trains did play an important role in the development of Houston and continue to be a vital part of the economy today, they are widely loathed for all the traffic snarls they cause.

Despite the criticism there isn’t apparently any serious effort to improve it. But there are several  humorous and artistic  redesign proposals.

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Lomax was “partial” to this design from a t-shirt by James Glassman, a.k.a. the Houstorian.
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Cort McMurray in the Houston Chronicle proposed this design.

In Houston Has a Flag — We Just Don’t Like It, the staff of Houstonia “asked four of our city’s artists to go nuts and build the banner of their dreams — the wilder, the better”:

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‘After realizing he’d “need 10 flags to capture the diversity and expansive cultures in Houston,” Michael Rodriguez, a multimedia designer known for his large-scale, commissioned graffiti works, finally settled on the distinguished downtown skyline, a few escaped Houston Zoo animals, the space shuttle and a trusty taco.’ (One of several different colorizations.)
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‘“My design is inspired by the galaxy, as we know NASA is a signature place when visiting Houston,” says Rongrong Devoe, a local fashion illustrator originally from China. “The different constellations represent the rodeo and oil derricks.” In other words, this is the flag you could show off to visitors wondering where all of Houston’s cowboys and astronauts are.’
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‘“No reimagining of the Houston flag could be complete without representing our loony weather: hot, cold, wet and sunny all in one day,” says designer Katsola®. She’s also included friendly characters from her well-known Houston-area murals—such as Nadeshiko the squid, who’s hugging the Broken Obelisk outside Rothko Chapel—and, of course, banh mi and pho.’
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Folk artist Taft McWhorter offers up what’s best described as a Houston-ized Texas flag. “The Houston skyline morphs into the bayou and our beautiful green space with the path and trees,” he explains. “This piece represents our history, tradition and our growth as a community,” most notably the growth of Buffalo Bayou from neglected waterway to newly minted civic treasure.
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Redditor Phib1618 proposed this tribute to Houstonian traffic.

Four Men in a Hot-Tub

Columbia, Missouri’s logo is intended to represent harmonious relations between the city’s government and its citizens:

City employees and citizens exist in an interwoven relationship. As a representation of this cooperative working bond, the distinctive City of Columbia logo depicts people joined together in an unending circle of community service. A solid version of the logo appears on city-owned vehicles, uniforms and correspondence as a reminder of this cooperative goal. [From FOTW research on the city flag]

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Original artwork

Alas, in its simplified form used in the actual logo, it looks like four men in a hot-tub.  The city used this logo flag from 1988 until this year, when a flag contest was held to redesign the flag.

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City flag, 1998-2016

The contest produced three finalists.

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Michael Bauer’s design was inspired by Chicago’s flag. The stars represent Missouri University, Stephens College, and Columbia College.
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Nicole Johnston’s design references C for Columbia, and a key sculpture at the city hall.
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Jon Sheltmire’s design recolored the logo and placed it on a white cross (for the city’s central location) on a counter-charged field of blue (for rivers, creeks, and lakes) and green (for natural areas).

On 2 May 2016 the City Council chose Sheltmire’s design as the official city flag.

Alicia Troesser, Art Director of the marketing firm Caledon Virtual, offered a “friendly critique”.  In it she points out that using a logo — any logo — is problematic:

What happens if the city decides to update or refresh the logo 10 years from now? Do they redesign the flag?

Of course, not every logo comes with a mnemonic as memorable as “four men in a hot-tub”. For better or worse, it may be associated with Columbia for a long time to come.

(For many other examples of city flags being considered for redesign, see our Municipal Flag Improvement page.)

Republic, Missouri Tries Again

Back in 1991, Republic, Missouri ran a ran a competition to choose a logo to be used on the city seal and the city flag. Marilyn Schexsnayder received $100 for the winning entry, an oval divided into quarters depicting the location of Republic within an outline of Missouri, an outstretched hand, a silhouette of a “traditional family” (mother, father, son, daughter), and the Christian fish symbol, the ichthus. The Missouri state flag was used as the basis for the city flag, with the Missouri seal replaced by the city seal — and the city’s name and marketing slogan written out for good measure.

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City flag of Republic, Missouri (1991-1999)
As one might imagine, a city explicitly identifying itself with any one religion would violate the principle of separation of church and state as established in the First Amendment. By February 1998 local objections to the flag became a subject of debate in Board of Aldermen meetings.  Closeted Wiccan and employee of the Republic Monitor (a local weekly paper) Jean Webb attended one of these meetings and was moved to write an editorial opposing the flag — for which she was fired and harassed with hate mail and threatening phone calls. Her children were ostracized, and she had to move her family away to escape the bigotry.

Supported by the ACLU, Webb filed a complaint objecting to the Christian symbolism on the flag, which made it to the US District Court in Webb v. City of Republic.  The case gained national attention, appearing in the New York Times and elsewhere, and galvanizing local support for the fish-festooned flag and against the ACLU.  In 1999 Republic lost the case, and responded by removing the ichthus but otherwise keeping  the rest of the seal’s design intact, leaving a bizarre “this space intentionally left blank” in its civic heraldry.

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City flag of Republic, Missouri (1999-present)
This year Republic is considering updating its flag. Unfortunately, as in the case of Provo, Utah, the main concern seems to be leveraging the city’s investment in a new logo (a stylized R) and slogan (“growing together”).  Here are the 11 designs under consideration, according to an April 2016 analysis by Interim City Administrator Jared Keeling.

This is one municipal flag improvement effort that was obviously not inspired by Roman Mars’ exhortation to get text and logos off of America’s city flags.

See also

 

 

 

A Flag for the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah

Where the Wishkah River flows into the Chehalis, just before it in turn flows into Grays Harbor in coastal Washington lies the small city of Aberdeen, best known as the birthplace and home of the lead singer of Nirvana, Kurt Cobain (1967-1994).  Founded in 1884 by Samuel Benn, up until a few days ago it has never had a city flag.

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“Aberdeen, WA: The Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah”.  Photo by R. Rhodes, from city-data.com.

Following a year-long effort by Aberdeen resident and flag enthusiast John Barclay, on 29 June 2016 the city council voted nearly unanimously to adopt his flag design.  (Radio station KBKW noted the objection of councilwoman Andrews, “who said the design reminded her of Alvin and the Chipmunks”.) The flag was presented to the council by Barclay and by Brian Little, President of the Aberdeen Revitalization Movement, who had strongly endorsed the flag in a written statement that included:

Stemming in part from an ongoing community conversation regarding finding meaningful opportunities to express civic pride Mr. Barclay on June 24, 2015 first approached Council to propose the creation and adoption of a city flag. At that first meeting he offered that: “Every great city deserves a great city flag”. The idea was met with enthusiasm and, encouraged by the Council’s response, [he] has since championed the idea and enlisted other likeminded citizens and together they have worked to bring forward a suitable City Flag for Council’s consideration.

[…] Attached is a proposed Resolution together with a suitable design crafted in accordance with the 5 basic principles of good flag design as presented by the North American Vexillological Association.

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John Barclay with his flag for Aberdeen. Photo from Facebook.

The description of the flag reads:

A canton comprised of a diagonal gold stroke extending from the upper hoist corner towards the fly and terminating just short of the botton of the blue field, and a thinner horizontal gold stroke extending from the lower middle hoist towards the fly and intersecting with the diagonal gold stroke.

The gold canton thus described being symbolic of the City of Aberdeen, Washington situated at the confluence of the Chehalis and Wishkah Rivers, and the blue field symbolic of the Harbor and the Pacific Ocean beyond. Together the symbolism represents Founder Sam Benn’s deeply held dream of “someday building a great city at the confluence of the Chehalis and Wishkah Rivers.” His dream is not just our city’s legacy but also our vision purpose. Building a great city!

So officially that’s not half of a capital A for Aberdeen decorating the blue field.  But in the flag specification it reads “Font: Segoi UI Bold” — a curious annotation indeed if the design includes nothing textual.  In his remarks to the Council Barclay seemed to indicate that the resemblance to text is intentional:

There’s a blue background, and that is not a letter, it’s not even half of a letter – although it does look like one, but that starts the conversation. […] The blue on the bottom represents the harbor, that leads out to the ocean, that’s why the leg isn’t attached to the bottom. The diagonal swatch represents the Chehalis River, the horizontal slash represents the Wishkah and this little part in here [gesturing at where the two met] represents where Sam Benn stepped out on the conflux to build a great city.

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Flag Designer John Barclay (left) and Aberdeen Mayor Erik Larson with the Aberdonian flag.  (From KXRO.) 

According to a report by radio station KXRO, Barclay was inspired (like so many others) by Roman Mars’ 2015 TED Talk featuring the PFA’s Ted Kaye on municipal flag design.