This Sunday is Flag Day in the United States, celebrating the official adoption of the national flag on 14 June 1777 as the Second Continental Congress decreed: “Resolved, That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”
In Washington, DC — taxation without representation, anyone? — Flag Day has become an opportunity not just to celebrate the national flag, but the DC flag as well. For example, Josh Burch’s Neighbors United for DC Statehood since 2013 has held a photo contest for Washingtonians posing with the flag.
For his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Communications project at Beckmans College of Design in Stockholm, Sweden, Oskar Pernefeldt has produced a very slick set of marketing materials for an “official proposal” for “the International Flag of Planet Earth“. On May 18th, Jacob Kastrenakes posted on The Verge a writeup entitled, with needless belligerency, This is the flag we’ll plant when we conquer an alien planet. This went viral, sending Pernefeldt’s flag concept zipping internationally around the planet Earth, in cyber space if not outer space.
Is this school project the first Internet-savvy “product launch” for a new flag? As a point of comparison, it will be interesting over the coming months to see how the countries of Fiji and New Zealand will use graphic design and social media platforms to market the new flags now being worked on.
This project was far from a solo effort. Pernefeldt thanks 15 individuals (including FIAV president Michel Lupant, and a heraldic artist from the Swedish national archives, Henrik Dahlström) and the following diverse set of six companies for their assistance:
bsmart – a photography, 3D/CGI, and image retouch company based in Stockholm and Cape Town
Johnér Images – a stock photography “natural imagery” firm
Flaggfabriken Kronan – a Swedish flag maker and retailer
LG Electronics – the South Korean consumer electronics giant
Namnband – a Swedish company specializing in garment labeling equipment
NASA – the US space agency (but why not the European Space Agency?)
All in all, a very impressive student project on futuristic vexillography. It would have been even stronger had it addressed the materials requirements for spaceworthy flags, and for flags that could actually fly in the thin Martian atmosphere. And it does not try to position itself within the existing design space for earth flags, including John McConnell’s famous Earth Flag. But for an undergraduate art project, really not bad at all — and perhaps something Fiji, New Zealand, and other new flag promotion projects can learn from.
The quality of the entries was stunning—hundreds of them would have made a successful state flag. While professional graphic artists participated and submitted spectacular designs, so did amateurs and schoolchildren.
Mike Hale and Ted Kaye helped with an initial culling process. In two weekend sessions of 2-3 hours each, they selected about 240 entries for further consideration by the flag jury.
After that jury selected the 10 finalists, newspaper readers gave Randall’s beaver design top votes. However, without a legislative plan and no support from the governor, the effort to update the official flag went nowhere.
The Oregonian described Randall’s design process: “Always interested in flags and design, Gray was unimpressed with the front of the Oregon flag. But the back, with the beaver, was another matter. ‘The backside is the start of something good.’” The meaning: “Blue and gold for the state colors with green to represent trees and wilderness Oregon was blessed with. White contrasts between the dark blue and green. The beaver from the current flag links us with the past. The star represents Oregon’s place in the Union.”
Elmer’s Flag and Banner generously made up the flag, using the beaver image from another entrant, Tom Lincoln. It is likely the only such flag extant in that design!
Contest update from November 2008 by Joan Carlin on the Oregonian blog. Reminds readers that the intent is not to replace the state flag, but to provide an alternative:
Sure, we’ve heard from about 100 people who don’t want to give up on the current flag. They told us to go back to California! But actually, we don’t want to give up on the current flag, even though its history is not all that storied. Reporter Michael Milstein wrote about how the design was whipped up in a hurry by the Legislature in 1925 without any community input. And not to put Michael back into the crosshairs of people who like the flag just as it is, but the contest was his notion. He wanted an event, to help launch the 150th anniversary of statehood in February, that would knit together the community. That’s exactly what happened. And, we’ve gotten some very cool, innovative flag designs from readers that reflect our iconic landscape.
Oregonian Hates Oregon State (Flag) by “mko” on the Oregon State University Admissions Blog, October 22, 2008. The posting and its 26 responses give a good sense of the controversy the Oregonian had unwittingly set off.
Although the flags are in the correct order, and there doesn’t seem to be any written rule about how many flags is too many when flown in this fashion, the overall effect is problematic:
They just look unwieldy and awkward. We expect flags to be longer than they are wide, but taken together these flags group into something like one very wide but short composite flag. In other words, they create something in “profile” orientation, when we expect to see “landscape”.
When sharing a pole in this way, they necessarily reinforce the pecking order (defined, in part, by DoD Directive 1005.8) that gives precedence to certain organizations over others. But is this pecking order relevant this context? For example, it demonstrates that the Army ranks much, much more highly than the lowly Merchant Marine — which is technically true, but does it have to be so rubbed in?
They all feature printed text, which comes out backwards (reading AIM/WOP, etc.) when the wind is blowing in the “wrong” direction, from right to left, as it is in this photo.
Even if the wind direction were cooperating, these flapping flags would still be hard to read, with the possible exception of the bold white-on-black design of the POW/MIA flag (which it shares with the flags of buccaneers, and ISIS). Designs of this complexity may work OK when used in some contexts (for example, in military color guard ceremonies), but as Good Flag, Bad Flag points out they don’t work particularly well here.
So what is the poor courthouse to do? Go to the expense of installing six additional poles? Well, on behalf of flag and flag pole businesses everywhere, the answer would be an emphatic YES! Let’s get some more cash circulating in the economy.
A more economical alternative could be to replace the six service flags with a single flag that represents all of them. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any such flag.
Could we at least reduce the number of flags? The Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, and (in times of war) Coast Guard all are part of the Department of Defense; the Coast Guard is usually part of the Department of Homeland Security; and the Merchant Marine is part of the Department of Transportation. So six of the flags above might be replaced with these three:
So until new ways are developed to distinguish and represent “especially honorable” employees of the federal government, unwieldy, rank-ordered, multiple-flag displays may be the best anyone can do. At least, this is good news for our friends in NIFDA.
By Scott Mainwaring and Ted Kaye, based on reporting by Devan Patel and Tim Novotny in the Coos Bay World
Vexillonnaires in Coos Bay, on the southern Oregon coast, have prompted the redesign of a prominent flag display along the city’s waterfront.
In 1991 residents wanting to “spruce up” Coos Bay convinced the city to fly flags representing the 34 countries that used it as a port of call. Flag poles along the boardwalk and Central Avenue flew these flags for 18 years, when in 2009 the city passed a resolution to fly only U.S. flags until troops returned from Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2012 the question of returning to the previous display was put before the city council, which voted against the measure. This year, feeling an end to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars was within sight, a city council subcommittee again proposed changing a return to international diversity, but adding flags of states, Indian tribes, and countries particularly significant to the region. An anonymous donor would fund the new flags.
Apparently the organizers of the Antelope Valley Fair in the California desert inadvertently chose to festoon their venue with LGBT rainbow flags. A local blog documents the official and community reaction: