Monday, February 28, 2011

New Flag for Ohio

Ohio's flag is pretty good, and not just because it has a pennant shape that is unique:

The colors are pure Americana, the stars represent Ohio's place as the 17th state, and it even has big a "O" on it.  On the off chance that Ohioans would ever want to try a more traditionally shaped flag, I have a suggestion.

This is the flag of Cincinnati, an interesting pattern with a big letter "C" on it and three wavy, blue lines meant to represent the Ohio River (I assume, I may be wrong), and the seal of the city in the center:

Using this flag as a template, I've created one that works for the entire state.  Ohio is bordered by two significant bodies of water, the Ohio River on the south and south-east and Lake Erie on the north, and I think I've captured that, along with the "O," without which Ohio's flag just wouldn't be the same:

I tried making the central stripe green to represent the verdant fields of the land, but the colors just didn't look right, so I'm sticking with the red, white, and blue.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


Every once in a while, I'll profile a flag that needs no help.  Today's is one of those:

It's pretty busy, it would be hard to stitch together by a budding Betsy Ross, but it looks so cool.  The color scheme, the heraldry, even taken by themselves, the different quadrants would make good flags.  An example of this is the flag of the City of Baltimore:

I'm not a fan of the seal in the middle, but it's simpler than most.  Another example is the "Crossland Banner," supposedly used by Marylanders who supported seceding from the Union in the Civil War:

It's just a good looking flag all around.  It's no surprise it was voted #4 of all the flags of the US states and Canadian provinces in a 2001 survey by the North American Vexillological Association.

Monday, February 21, 2011

New Flag for Georgia

Ugh, now this is a flag I really don't like:

This is the current flag of Georgia, which was adopted after a long and bitter fight to finally get rid of this flag:

And also after a brief intermediate period wherein this flag was used:

Now, I have problems with all these flags (as do many others), so lets go through them in chronological order, starting with the offensive one in the middle.

The flag of Georgia with the Confederate battle flag on the right was not adopted during the Civil War, nor in the almost 100 years following it.  It was adopted in 1956, a time in which every Civil War veteran was dead (Albert Woolson, the last verified veteran, died that year), the nation was gearing up for the Civil War centennial set to begin in just a few years, and, most importantly, civil rights was now a national issue (the Brown v. Board of Education decision was made in 1954).  Proponents argued that the flag was changed solely for the centennial, but this was a time in which that conflict was spoken of as springing from state's rights, not slavery (slavery wasn't the sole cause, we don't live in a two-dimensional world, but the secessions documents of the southern states clearly spell out why each state thought it had to leave the Union and they claimed it was to protect, all together now, slavery).

In 2001, the flag was finally changed to the intermediate phase.  It didn't last long though as it was panned by nearly everyone.  For one, it turned a flag which had been at the very least recognizable into just another blue flag with a seal on it, and it also had a series of other flags running along the bottom.  A flag with pictures of flags?  Besides the risk of destroying the time-space continuum, it just looks bad.  The flag of South Africa tried it (apartheid era), and they at least rotated one so it didn't look like a flag parade.

Which brings us to the current flag, the one adopted to ultimately replace the state flag with the Confederate battle flag which many found offensive.  On the surface, it seems fine.  The seal is still there, but it is relegated to the canton and surrounded by stars.  The three stripes seem to denote a simplification of the American flag, firmly establishing that Georgia is proud to be American once again and that they are putting their rebellious past behind them.  Now, if I may, I'd like to make a quick comparison:

The flag on the left is Georgia, the flag on the right is the first national flag of the Confederacy.  In their attempt to remove the offensive nature of their flag, they simply traded one Confederate symbol for another, though admittedly one most people aren't very familiar with.  In a word, it's the duplicity that makes me dislike the flag.  Whether they did it on purpose or just like the design, it feels like Georgia got away with it, and that is troubling, to say the least.

Is there something that would make a better symbol of Georgia, or at least something with less overt Confederate undertones?  I sure hope so, and I've come up with something I think does just that:

This flag is based on the flag of Georgia from 1920-1956, with the state seal being replaced by a peach.  For me, this is a compromise flag, one which pulls from former designs (including the current one) but removes the carbon-copy feel it has when compared to the 1st Confederate National flag.  And god knows, Georgia won't shut up about peaches.

New Flag for California

Now here is a flag that is difficult to argue with:

Not only is it instantly recognizable (and not just because it has "California" on it), but it also has a long and storied history.  I mean, when a state's nickname is the "Bear Flag Republic," it would seem like a poor decision to try and tamper with the flag with the bear on it.  However, I'm going to anyway.

As a general rule, I'm not a fan of flags with writing on them, especially if it's a name.  It feels like an admission of mediocrity, that this flag can't be picked out of a lineup so we'll label it for you.  California's is an exception though, but mostly because the original bear flag said the same thing:

To play devil's advocate for a moment, here's what it would look like with out the words:

It maintains the symbolism, speaks to the history, and makes you feel that much smarter for being able to identify it.  But as this is only a thought experiment, I'd like to go a step further.  Simple isn't always better, but the bear is a little busy, what with the grass and shading for its fur.  Here is my idea for new flag for California:

In case you don't recognize it, this is the flag of the city of Los Angeles with the central seal removed.  Now before I get complaints, I'm not from California and have no desire to get into some sort of "Southern California is better than Northern California" argument.  My only experience in the state was changing planes in LAX and I have no desire to do that ever again.  However, taken just on color and design, I think this flag works for the whole state.  The green, as it so often does, can represent the natural beauty, the agricultural abundance, or weed (sorry, couldn't help myself), the yellow can be the deserts or the mineral wealth (think gold rush), and the red can be a reference to their past of being ruled by Spain/Mexico.

All the color symbolism is a little generic though, so here's what I think really sells this as a flag for all of California: the jagged border between the colors can stand for earthquakes.  Sure earthquakes happen all over the USA, but if someone ever said to you, "Did you hear?  There was just a big earthquake in . . ." who among us wouldn't think they were about to say California (or a least a major Californian city)?  Earthquakes are terrible and can cause tremendous loss of life, but it wouldn't be the first time there was an awful symbol on a flag (think Mississippi).

Sunday, February 20, 2011

New Flag for Massachusetts

Heart of New England, birthplace of the Revolution, home of Otis, Adams, and Hancock, Massachusetts was a cornerstone of early America.  I'm sure their flag reflects the rich history of this commonwealth, so lets take a look.

Ok, maybe not.

The flag of Massachusetts is white.  The figure in the center of the purple shield represents an Algonquian Native American, the severed arm atop the crest signifies the commitment to fight for liberty, and there is a lovely Latin inscription on the ribbon surrounding the shield.

This flag is really disappointing.  Although it's imagery recalls the rich and defiant history of Massachusetts, one needs to have a detailed description handy to make much sense of it.  This is not the sort of image that one could put on a T-shirt and not need to also put the state name (Colorado is a great example of this, as is Texas).  It might as well be stitched to a blazer for a preparatory school. 

Another area of disappointment comes from the fact that Massachusetts has a rich flag history from which they could draw.  This is one version of the Bunker Hill flag (there is quite a bit of controversy here, as some records indicate no flag was flown by the Americans at that battle, while others give varying colors and descriptions):

This one is nice and far cleaner than the current one, but wouldn't make much sense for a place so proud of its ability to break away from the English crown.  The red cross in the canton is the cross of St. George, patron saint of England and namesake saint of King George III, who by the end of the Revolution wasn't very popular in Massachusetts for some reason.  On a more personal level, the blue used is very similar to that used in a large number of other state flags, so let's steer away from that.  Thus I submit another historical flag, the flag of New England from the same period:

This flag is nice and evocative.  There is a simplicity in its design and the largely red field would really stand out among its state flag brethren.  (I tried moving the tree into the center and removing the white altogether, but it looked too much like I was trying to entice customers to a Christmas sale).  The pine tree has been a symbol of New England for centuries, and I think Massachusetts has just enough ego to think they could get away with claiming this regional flag as their own.  In defense of that statement though, it's not like anyone else is using it.

My only improvement would be to par down the tree a bit and remove the darker green lines:

Not a big change, but I think, an improvement nonetheless, and head and shoulders above the one they have now.

A New Flag for Delaware

Let's start at the beginning with the first state, Delaware.

Delaware's flag is an example of the common formula for US state flags: "We already came up with a state seal, why make more work for ourselves?" then just slapped the seal on a piece of cloth and ran it up the flagpole.  Granted, Delaware at least uses colors other than the typical dark blue, but the seal on the center is far too busy:

A concept used on other blogs is the Betsy Ross test, meaning how simple it would be for someone who isn't a master embroiderer to sew together the flag.  This flag fails, there is too much going on the middle, unless you're using those iron on decals or something.

Additionally, it gives the date of statehood right across the bottom.  Delaware has one claim to fame, it was first, and their slogans, license plates, seal, flag, and I'd bet official stationary all make sure you remember that.  I believe the Simpsons once hoped to see its famous screen-door factory, but what Delaware subsists on is "#1."  Here is an example of a possible flag:

Boring, but more simple than the current design, and it would probably win in a referendum.

However, there is something else that sets Delaware apart, something that is less deserving of light-hearted mockery.  Unlike any other colony, Delaware was begun by the Swedes.  We have plenty of British colonies, a number of Spanish ones in the southwest and Florida, even a smattering of remnants of the French and Dutch Empires, but Delaware was the only Swedish colony on North America.  Though not to the level of Jamestown, St. Augustine, or Plymouth, it's a milestone that deserves more attention. 

To that end, I present my own suggestion.  I've kept the background colors and the diamond shape because they are unique among state flags (and because it invokes the Brazilian flag, which is one of my favorites), but added something new to the center that, I think, better reflects Delaware's history than the current mish-mash:

(It's the flag of Sweden, just in case you were unsure)

Getting Started

Welcome to Fix the Flags, a blog where I try to fix the flags of states, provinces, and countries around the world, making them more unique, specific, and interesting.  As anyone who has tried to memorize the flags of the world can tell you, there are a lot of copycats out there (please, British territories, you must have noticed the similarities!).  If you haven't before, I would encourage you to try and play Sporcle's US state flags quiz.  Take away the 15 or so that really stand out (Maryland, California, Texas, etc.) and the ones with the name of the state in big letters and most would be hard pressed to figure out identity of the others. 

To that end, I'll be starting with the flags of the various states, commonwealths, and territories of the USA.  I may be wrong, but when your state's flag is a circle on blue (2/5 of them use this template!) it seems hard to argue that it's special.

Before getting started, I must admit that this idea was not entirely my own.  I need to acknowledge "Your State Flag Stinks" for getting me to even think about this.  In that blog, some state flags are praised, but most are skewered and witty/sarcastic replacements are offered (great example: the new New Jersey flag symbolizes the Jersey Turnpike with thin green edges to represent the "garden" part of that state).  I hope to do much the same thing, but from a different perspective, looking at the histories of the flags and what they represent and doing my best to make them cleaner, simpler, and above all, more recognizable.  I also want to thank the ongoing Flag Friday project over at Vexillophilia, where the flags of the various nations of the world are being critiqued.  I hope to head abroad eventually, but for now I'll stick with the USA (and maybe Canada).

I'll also preface this whole endeavor by saying that a flag can be intensely important to people as a symbol of their nation, community, even themselves.  Any criticism or suggestions I make on this blog are nothing more than my own personal opinions on the aesthetic nature of flags in and of themselves, not the ideas, nations, ambitions, etc. that they may represent.

Comments are always welcome and any improvements on the designs I offer here would be great.  Just as most current designs need improvement, I'm sure mine will as well.