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  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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

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:

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:

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)

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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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?

New Flags for Australia’s States?

by Max Liberman, Vexilloid Tabloid #58

In 2001, Australian vexillographer Brendan Jones produced a series of intriguing proposals for new Australian state flags. The designs follow the pattern established by the flags of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory: the southern cross from the national flag in a panel at the hoist, and an emblem representative of the state in the fly.

For New South Wales, the hoist is dark blue and the fly sky blue (the state color), bearing a red waratah (the state flower).  Jones notes that the waratah “is also of significance to many local Aboriginal peoples and hence serves as an important symbol of Aboriginal recognition and reconciliation”.

The proposal for Victoria is in dark blue and white. In the fly, an eight-pointed star, taken from the historic Eureka flag of 1854, is counterchanged and combined with an inverted triangle to form the shape of the state’s initial “V”.

For Queensland, the hoist again is dark blue; the gold fly (which represents the state’s sunshine and golden beaches) is charged with a stylized Cooktown orchid (the state’s floral emblem) in maroon, the state color. The orchid’s six petals represent Queensland as the sixth and last of Australia’s states to have been established as a British colony.

South Australia’s heraldic colors of blue, gold, and red all appear in its proposed flag. The blue hoist represents the Southern Ocean and the red fly the desert of the Outback; a narrow gold fimbriation separates the two and the fly is charged with the piping shrike from the existing state flag and coat of arms.

The design for Western Australia uses the state’s heraldic and sporting colors of black (hoist) and gold (fly); the gold also represents the state’s mineral wealth and expansive desert. The fly bears the state emblem, the black swan, which appears in the current flag and badge and evokes the state’s former name, the Swan River Colony.

For Tasmania, both the state’s unofficial sporting color (green) and its heraldic colors (red and white) are used.  The hoist is red and the fly white, charged with a map of the state in green; the green also symbolizes Tasmania’s natural heritage.

On the whole, the proposed designs are clear and distinctive, and the unifying pattern of the hoist panel with the southern cross makes them unmistakably Australian. All of them would be a considerable improvement over the British colonial ensigns currently serving as state flags. But it might also be felt that the use of the NT/ACT model inappropriately blurs the constitutional distinction between Australia’s states and territories, and that for the states’ flags to adhere to a uniform template does not serve to represent their individual identities and their status as sovereign entities within the Australian federation.

Jones’s website featuring the designs can be found at


A Flag for the Hub City of Oregon

Albany, Oregon wants to join the ranks of cities with flags.  Spurred by the vexillonaires of GUAVA (the Greater Unified Albany Vexillological Association), led by West Albany High School math teacher Cole Pouliot, the city is running a design contest through 5 pm Pacific Time on 5 July 2016.  The design contest winner will receive a $100 prize.

You can submit up to three entries by visiting

On that webpage you will find this primer on Albaniana:

What is Albany to you? Here are some facts to get started.

  • Albany is the county seat of Linn County, and the 11th largest city in the State of Oregon.
  • Albany is located in the Willamette Valley at the confluence of the Calapooia River and the Willamette River in both Linn and Benton counties.
  • Albany is credited by historians and architects with having the most varied collection of historic buildings in Oregon.
  • Albany, previously a primarily an agricultural and wood products manufacturing town, now calls itself the “rare metals capital of the world”, producing zirconium, hafnium and titanium.
  • Albany and the surrounding communities are major exporters of grass seed.
  • Albany’s easily accessible location along major roadways, railways, the Santiam-Albany Canal as well as the WIllamette and Calapooia Rivers cemented Albany’s original nickname of Oregon’s Hub City.

The flag contest presents an opportunity for Albany to adopt for the first time a symbol of its unique character and history, as it currently has only the generic Americana of its city seal.

For more on the contest and GUAVA, see the Albany Democrat-Herald article announcing the contest.

Derek Duman and Cole Pouliot presenting the GUAVA flag at last month’s PFA meeting.

Vexilloid Tabloid #58

The latest issue of the PFA newsletter is here:  The Vexilloid Tabloid #58 (June 2016). Featuring:

  • Introduction: NZ, VT, and Albany (Ted Kaye)
  • A U.S. Canton Honoring Alaska (Michael Orelove)
  • A Flag for the Other Portland (Ted Kaye)
  • Czech Municipal Flags (interview with Petr Exner by Scott Mainwaring)
  • Redesigning the U.S. Flag (Scott Mainwaring)
  • New Flags for Australia’s States? (Max Liberman)

As always, you can find notes from the last PFA meeting, a roundup of flag-related news and notes, the What’s that Flag? quiz, and Portland Flag Miscellany (flag usage in Portland and the many uses of Portland’s city flag).

And, as always, it’s free and worth every penny!




Pride, Unity, and Flag Design

In Vexilloid Tabloid #57 we reported on a research project by Australian high school senior Max Pickering.  Since then, he has interviewed a number of vexillologists; conducted surveys of residents of his home town of Adelaide, South Australia; and revised his research question to the following:

To what extent does the design of a flag influence its ability to evoke a sense of identity and pride?

The results of his study are nicely presented in this 12 minute YouTube video.


Survey Results
Survey results: Proportion of respondents agreeing that the flag produces pride or unity, or is well designed, for the Australian national flag vs. the Adelaide city flag.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

The province of New Brunswick has a fine heraldic flag, depicting a ship (a three-flagged, single-masted, oared galley called a  lymphad, as traditional in Scottish heraldry) beneath a  fantastically elongated golden lion passant (a symbol of the Canadian monarchy, and of German Brunswick) .

What’s wrong with this picture? You might point out that lymphads have never been used in the Maritime Provinces, and that monstrous gold lions are seldom seen in apocalyptic red and yellow skies over Moncton. And you would be right. But that’s not what bothers me about this flag. I rather like the psychedelic heraldic imagery. Heraldic artists are entitled to artistic license.

What bothers me is that the direction in which the wind is depicted blowing on the flag is always the opposite of the way the actual wind is blowing when the flag is flying.  (And since heraldic flags are “printed through” so that the reverse is the mirror image of the obverse, it doesn’t matter if you happen to be looking at the back of the flag — the real and imaginary winds are always opposed.)

Why didn’t the heraldic designer of this flag (Alan B. Beddoe, O.B.E., (R.C.N.V.) Rtd.) fix this apparent problem by having the ship head the opposite way: away from instead of towards the hoist? (Hoist is the flag terminology for the edge of the flag attached to the flagpole.)

The New Brunswick flag with the lymphad turned around.

Well, in addition to now somewhat awkwardly presenting an apparent chance encounter of an aerial lion headed to the left with a ship headed to the right, this would violate the heraldic principle that the direction of honor is away from the sinister (to the observer’s right) and towards the dexter (to the observer’s left).  Turning the ship around would suggest it was, like Sir Robin in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, bravely running away, not forward.

Sir Robin and minstrels.

Heraldry aside, when a flag is flying from a flag pole it has an implied direction of motion that is into the wind — and opposite to the actual motion the flag would have it it were to become detached from the pole.  This idea that the forward edge of the flag is its windward one becomes more apparent if you imagine the flag flying from a moving pole, so that it is the motion of the pole (held by a marcher, perhaps) rather than the wind that is causing the air to move past it.  By this flag-logic (which gives the same result but for different reasons than heraldry-logic), to be understood as moving forward, the ship needs to be facing the hoist. (This flag-logic is also the reason that “backwards” US flags are worn on the right shoulders of some military uniforms and placed on the right side of vehicles.)

The US flag on the right side of Space Shuttle Endeavor.

This need to show vehicles (and people, and animals) facing into the wind only comes into conflict with the way the wind itself needs to be depicted on the flag when the vehicle is understood to be pushed by the (imaginary) wind.  Take away the sail, for example, and the problem goes away — the imaginary wind can be shown to be moving in an anti-heraldic direction, consistent with the real wind, and (hopefully?) not raising any heraldic hackles.

The New Brunswick flag with the lymphad turned around.

However, the question of which direction is perceived as forward on a flag is larger than the particular problems depicting sailing vessels presents.  But that is a subject for another time.

More US Flag Improvements

We announced a provocative design exercise in Vexilloid Tabloid #57, namely:

Ignoring the political near-impossibility of change…simply from a DESIGN perspective, how could the US flag be improved?

We reported earlier on two proposals emailed to us, but there have been some other ideas presented since then, on our Facebook page, in the Flags and Vexillology discussion group, and at our meeting last evening.

The main theme was simplification, but that came in strikingly different forms.  Some looked to the history of the US flag’s evolution, and proposed reinstating the original 13-star, 13-stripe flag.

Others looked to this same evolutionary history of the US flag to simplify the flag not by reducing the number of stars, but by structuring them into a simpler pattern (something perceptual psychologists might call a gestalt) — either based on circles or the 5-pointed star shape itself. Here are some historical examples, plus a couple of proposals that look ahead to Puerto Rican statehood.  (Note that before 1912 no specific star pattern was specified.)

Nick Artimovich of the Chesapeake Bay Flag Association posted this image of a beautiful and unusual 50-star concentric circle flag from his collection.

Zoli Truskova suggested reducing the number of stars to one, and replacing the blue canton with a blue bar at the hoist.  Truskova’s design is identical to the rather obscure “Ceremonial flag of the Texas Navy Association” (, which was derived sometime after 1958 from the naval ensign and de facto first flag of the Republic of Texas (1836-39). For the ceremonial flag, the union was replaced by a blue bar at the hoist in order to distinguish it from the flag of Liberia (adopted 1847).

Truskova’s proposal. Also, the Texas Navy Assn. ceremonial flag.

Truskova’s design also brings to mind a proposal to replace the canton with a wide blue bar advocated by Navy veteran Samuel J. Kapral.  Kapral kept all 50 stars but wanted to give them enough space to be seen from a distance.  He sent his design to the White House in 2014 but never heard back.

Samuel J. Kapral (1925-2015) shows his redesign.

PFA member David Koski presented a radical redesign that gives the 50 stars plenty of room — the entire field — by doing away with the stripes entirely.  It still has a blue canton, with 13 stars arranged in the Hopkinson pattern.

David Koski’s all-star flag.

The most radical simplification came from Matthew Brawn on Facebook, who represents the 13 original states with a 13-pointed star, on a diagonally divided field of red and blue divided by a rising white stripe symbolizing “the strength of the country”.

Matthew Brawn’s redesign.

Rather than redesign the US flag, contrarian Scott Mainwaring proposed to de-design it by proposing that the Feds relax the flag’s specifications to explicitly encourage organizations, manufacturers, and individuals to create their own star patterns.  Any flag having 13 red and white stripes and a blue canton of 50 stars, of any sizes, shapes, colors, or patterns, would meet the revised specification. He wrote:

Annin, Valley Forge, Flag Source, Flag Zone and local flag manufacturers might compete with one another in promoting their own in-house designs.  Individual US states might also create their own variants – perhaps California could use the stars to outline a bear, and Alaska could make the Big Dipper out of a subset of large stars and relegate the rest to small stars in background constellations.  With this freedom would come responsibility: It would be up to each variant designer to make their star pattern beautiful and meaningful.

In this way, the dull uniformity of millions of identical copies of the Standard US Flag could be replaced with a rich culture of individual expression that would better represent the American ideals of individual freedom and collective diversity.

Unbeknownst to Mainwaring, Michael Orelove — who lived in Alaska for many years — had already independently created a variant US flag for Alaska, ingeniously highlighting 8 of the 50 stars to form the big dipper.  He gave away this flag at the meeting as part of an ongoing effort to downsize his belongings.

We thank everyone who submitted designs and ideas for this challenge, providing plenty of evidence that there is lots of room for creativity and debate using the US flag as a starting point.

Rate the Semifinalists for Portland

The contest being run by the Bangor Daily News to propose a new flag for Portland, Maine is asking for your feedback on 10 semifinalist designs no later than this Sunday, 15 May.  Here are the 10 semifinalists – with the designers’ statements and brief notes by Ted Kaye in the captions.

The three most highly rated flags will go on to the final round of voting, which closes Friday, 27 May.  The winning designer will receive a $300 prize.