Monday, March 28, 2011

New Flag of Florida

Florida's flag isn't so bad, despite the use of the seal and the similarity to the flag of Alabama:

Maybe I'm being too easy on it, there is a lot of stuff going on in the middle of this flag, but the imagery of the Native American watching the steamship sail by is appealing, ignoring the fact that a scene like this probably never happened.

The easiest way to fix this flag would be to remove all the stuff in the middle:

This flag still resembles Alabama, but the large golden disk could easily be said to be the sun, Florida is the Sunshine State after all.  It would be simple, easy to draw, and probably be fairly recognizable.  However, suggesting this as the alternative makes me feel a little lazy, so let's see if we can do better.

Florida has a diverse flag history, going back to its colonization by the Spanish in the early 1500's.  Here are three of the flags used over all or part of the state in the intervening years:

The flag of the short-lived Republic of West Florida (centered on the Gulf coasts of Mississippi and Alabama and part of Louisiana, there is some dispute over if it ever claimed any of today's Florida).  This flag is interesting, it has a good historical connection, even if geographically it may be a little tenuous.  However, the single star is a bit dull, particularly with the profusion of stars on other states' flags.  Plus, it was used as the flag of secession across much of the South during the 1860's, so I'll just avoid that whole mess.

The flag Florida adopted in 1861, its first state flag.  This one is also interesting, but mainly because it echos the 1st Confederate National flag in a way that seems to be unique; the flag is divided in half, with one side being blue and the other holding the three stripes.  This one could serve as template for another Southern state in the future, but I think I have a better idea for Florida.

The flag Florida used from 1868 to 1900.  This one is an approximation, as the seal has been changes in minor ways over the years, but it gives the same impression as the other would have.  This flag is not the source of that better idea, I just wanted to let you know that Florida's flag used to be a lot worse.

The improvement idea comes from a flag that has been shown on this blog before and currently acts as one of the inspirations for Florida's currents design; the Cross of Burgundy:

It struck me as I studied this flag that it has twenty four little notches on it (or whatever you want to call those things) and Florida was the 27th state.  It wouldn't be too hard to add three more and this would provide an unique way of denoting the state's position without using only stars again.  Here is the end result:

I've changed the colors for two reasons, because I got sick of red and white, and because the green cross now resembles palm fronds, a type of tree synonymous with Florida.  There are now 26 notches, one for each state at the time Florida joined, and one central orange star to represent Florida itself.  This star can also symbolize the Sun and the orange color can point to one of the state's most famous products, citrus fruit.  It has a distinct design, each element is (fairly) specific to Florida, and could easily be turned into a bumper sticker.

Monday, March 21, 2011

New Flag for Utah

I have a number of problems with the state of Utah's flag, some of which may stem from a wariness of Utah, but its probably better to not get into that.  Let's stick to the flag itself, shall we?:

Here we see the typical formula of the state seal on a blue background, with various state and national symbols.  It is important to know that Utah (then under the name Deseret) had a tough time getting accepted into the Union, due to a number of issues relating to unease throughout the country about the Mormon faith and some of its practices.  That is why two dates appear on the flag, the larger being the date of statehood (1897) and the smaller, partially obscured being the date of the first Mormon settlements in the area that would become Utah (1847).  Because of those circumstances, it feels like this flag is trying a little too hard to show its commitment to America.  The crossed flags and the protection of the bald eagle are a bit much, in my opinion.

That being said, I think the best part of this flag is the beehive.  I know, weird thing to like, but Mormons use it as a symbol of community and hard-work, and although it has been used that way for centuries in heraldry and by the Freemasons, in the US it is uniquely Utah.  Deseret, the name Brigham Young gave to the theocracy he built by the Great Salt Lake, supposedly means "honeybee" in one of the languages of the book of Mormon.  Thus, of all the symbolism on this flag, that's the thing I'm going to keep.

One possible template for the flag is the one claimed as one of the earliest flag's of the LDS church.  I won't reproduce it here, as apparently there is someone out there who claims he has a copyright on it.  I'm not sure how one can copyright an historical flag, but I have no desire to draw the attentions of this litigious individual.  If you're interested, it can be seen here.  It looks like the flag of Uruguay with its blue and white stripes, except that up in the canton, it had a ring of stars.  Not being worried about being sued by Uruguay, that one I will reproduce here:

It feels like stars have been overused though, even (perhaps especially) by me, so let's put something else up there:

It has a nice, simple design, it could be drawn by a child or sewed together by an amateur.  It also has a direct tie to the history of the state which, for better or worse, is deeply connected to Mormonism.  

Friday, March 18, 2011

New Flag for Vermont

We're just diving in this time, so here's Vermont:

Nothing real special here, though the use of the pine tree, a symbol common throughout New England, is a nice touch.  It also has the name of the state, but this time it is in a much smaller font than a flag like Montana's. 

Vermont is one of the few states that was (or at least functioned and thought of itself as) an independent country, with Texas, California, and Utah being other examples.  We'll get to Utah in a few days, but Vermont has a great flag legacy.  From the late 1700's to the early 1800's, it based its flag on that of the United States, sometimes with varying numbers of stripes and with different things up in the canton.  Around that time though, they had an even better one: the flag of the Green Mountain Boys, the militia of the Vermont Republic:

The historical connections and aesthetics of this flag are great and plus, I like green.  My only problems stem from the canton where the stars are tossed up there in a haphazard fashion and the fact that there are only thirteen.  First change, give them another star.  They were the 14th state, they deserve it.  Then I'll put them in a pattern, something that resonates, that places Vermont among the first thirteen, but gives them pride-of-place.  VoilĂ :

It's got a Betsy Ross feel to it that suits this state, the one that just missed being a founding member.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

New Flag for Illinois

I'm starting to run out of polite ways to introduce terrible flags designs, not a good sign since I've only done a dozen or so.  Here's Illinois:

Another white flag with a seal, though this seal is far more interesting than the one Massachusetts uses.  The eagle looks good, there's a nice sunset (sunrise?) in the background, and it harkens back to the Civil War with the slogan and Union shield.  It seems a bit odd that of the two dates on the rock, the date of statehood (1818) is below the date of the adoption of the seal (1868), but that's their call.

Back in 1918, a flag was designed for the Illinois centennial that did away with the seal and stuck to using stars as symbolism.  It looked alright, but I'll try and do better:

This is the flag of Springfield, the Illinois state capital:

It has an interesting, deep purple color scheme, 21 stars, and some text (but that's easy to get rid of).  I've used it as a jumping off point to try and create one for the state as a whole.  Where better to look than the city in the center?  Here's what I've come up with:

The stars denote Illinois's position as the 21st state to join the union.  The blue represents the waters of the state, Lake Michigan, the Mississippi, and the Ohio, but on this flag, the blue serves a more important purpose.  Can you see it?  Ok, here's a hint, who is the native son that Illinois is most proud of, one of the most important Americans ever?  The blue, and the fact that it doesn't reach all the way across, make the purple appear in the shape of Abraham Lincoln's stovepipe hat!

I'm pretty proud of this one.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

New Flags for Indiana, Iowa, and Mississippi

There are a number of flags out there that need fixing, but only require minor alterations.  This could be because they used to have a perfectly good flag, because a major city has a nice one that could fit the whole state, or maybe they just need some text removed.  I'm going to deal with a few of these today, starting with Indiana:

This is an overall nice flag, the stars are symbolic, it has unique imagery, and it is a fairly simple design.  However, it also gives the name of the state, which needs to go.  No matter how well designed your flag may be, it needs a fix as soon as you start putting text on it.  The obvious alteration here would be to just remove "Indiana."  Sadly for me, someone has already done that and in the name of originality, I'm going to come up with something else:

This is from the blog Your State Flag Stinks, and I like it a lot, so I won't devote too much time to trying to one-up it, just give a suggestion of my own:

This is the flag of Indianapolis, the capital of Indiana.  Both the city and the state claim the motto "Crossroads of America" and so this flag could work for both.  Admittedly, it looks like a traffic circle if you stare at it long enough, so let's move on:

Iowa, land of corn and . . . um, caucuses, I guess?.  Their flag is intriguing since it is based on the French tri-color (the French were the first to explore the area and it was part of the Louisiana Purchase) and has the bald eagle in the center.  But here again, we have a text problem, plus the eagle looks like it is trying to  be a ribbon dancer, so let's do away with all that, shall we?:

Removed the ribbons and the text and re-centered the eagle.  It could probably be simplified more, but I'll save that for some sort of "Fix the Fixes" post in the future.  On to our last competitor:

On aesthetic merits, Mississippi's flag looks pretty good, but that is not so much the case in an historical or racial setting.  I've long thought it was a shame that the Confederate battle flag has become so intrinsically linked with slavery because it has such a great look, but them's the breaks and we'll just have to live with it.  In light of that, here is my suggestion:

Behold, the flag of Mississippi during the Civil War.  This flag would allow Mississippi to maintain their link with their Confederate past, but without the pesky implications that come along with the use of St. Andrew's cross.  Plus the tree is a magnolia, another symbol of Mississippi (it is the Magnolia State, after all) and one which also avoids reference to past racial injustice.

Friday, March 11, 2011

New Criteria

While sitting in traffic today I had a thought.  Other sites use various criteria for critiquing flags, one of which, the Betsy Ross test, I've have lovingly stolen (theft if the highest form of flattery, right?) and used in a couple of my own posts.  However, in the spirit of being more original, I've come up with my own version of this idea, namely that a flag should be simple, yet distinct, a design that is recognizable and with as little clutter as possible.

In pursuit of that I will now be using (drum roll please) a bumper-sticker test.  Ok, a bit anti-climactic, I know, but think about it for a second.  When you're stuck behind a car and see a little palmetto and crescent in the corner of the back windshield or affixed next to the license plate, you immediately think, "This person must be from South Carolina" no matter what color the palmetto may be or what the actual plate says.  Only a few other states can pull this sort of thing off, namely Texas, California, Mississippi, and maybe Arkansas to name a few. 

This should be the sort of thing a state strives for in its flag, a design that is either simple and recognizable to begin with, or at least one that remains recognizable if reduced to the simplest form.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

New Flag for Alabama

At first glance, Alabama's flag looks pretty good.  It has clean primary colors, it isn't cluttered by seals or text, it even has a strong connection to Alabama's history:

I'll even give Alabama credit for being able to hark back to the Confederacy, but doing so in a way that isn't as blatantly offensive as Mississippi's flag or Georgia's old flag (It is reminiscent of an old Spanish flag too, but fewer people today have issues with Spain).  However, it is also identical to Saint Patrick's flag, the one which was incorporated into (and still is a part of) the flag of the United Kingdom.  I'd put up the Irish flag, but it is exactly the same.

Another strike against this flag is it's similarity to the flag of Florida, the only difference being that Florida has the state seal at the center.  This isn't too surprising, both are drawing inspiration from the Confederate battle flag and the Cross of Burgundy, used by the Spanish Empire which controlled areas of both states:

Sadly, Alabama can't really draw on state flags it used in the past.  The state flag that was used back in the 1860's would fit right in with most of the state flags of today; it was blue, it had text, and it had an image of justice with a sword (not very Alabama specific).  It's reverse had an interesting image of a rattlesnake under a cotton plant, but the only version I've found didn't look very good and I'm not a graphic artist, so I'll have to come up with something else:

The following is the flag of Montgomery, Alabama.  It recalls the Confederate past, but doesn't use the overt symbolism of Saint Andrew's Cross (a good example of this in use today is the flag of Arkansas.  Compare it to the CSA battle flag and you'll see what I mean).  It also utilizes gray, another reference to the CSA, but one that is little used:

I like this flag, but it needs a little tweaking to make it fit for the whole state.  First of all, the words have to go, leaving us with the problem of the stars.  This flag has eleven, representing the number of states in the Confederacy, but this isn't so bad, as Alabama was the 22nd state, and with a quick doubling, it will become more Alabama-appropriate.  I'm also a fan of the laurel, even if it is a little busy, but it to has to go.  Here's what I've come up with:

This flag evokes the state's history without being too offensive (this is for Alabama, after all), the 22 stars reflect the state's position, and it retains the color scheme of the Montgomery, which I thought worked well.  Plus, it's a nice twist on the typical tri-color.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

New Flag for Montana

Ok everyone, we've got another seal-on-blue to work with:

This is the flag of Montana, just in case you couldn't tell (of course, if you're reading this, there's no reason for you to not know that).  It is boring and though it may be identifiable, that is only because it says "Montana" across the top.  As flags using this template go, this one isn't so bad.  The landscape look better than most of the "let's throw all our state symbols on it" kind of seal, and it's possible to guess this is Montana's from the imagry and the simple slogan "Oro y Plata" (gold and silver).  However, it is just one of the better examples of a bad genre and the huge "Montana" makes any compliments I can give seem hollow.

To improve this flag, we should take the elements the current one gets right.  Montana is known for mineral wealth and mountains, among other things, and a new flag should reflect that.  We can even incorporate the state slogan without resorting to spelling it out:

This is the flag of Denver, Colorado (yes, I know that isn't in Montana, but Colorado has a great flag that needs no improvement, and I'm sure the good people of Denver wouldn't mind sharing to help out a fellow Western state):

It is simple, it has clean colors and shapes, it is an all-around good flag.  It's a shame to waste it on a single city.  Now the obvious elements we want to use from this flag are the mountains, which conveniently form a big letter "M."  The inclusion of a letter can be hit-or-miss, but if done right, like on Colorado's and Ohio's flag, you don't even notice it half the time (like the arrow between the "E" and "X" on the FedEx logo).

The first thing I'm going to change is the sun floating over the mountains.  I have no problem with it on principle, but giving you the flag of another place with no alterations just seems lazy.  Montana is also known as "Big Sky Country" and I think that can be reflected on this flag by simply removing the sun.  Here's what I've come up with:

I've lightned the blue, to more directy reference "Big Sky," the mountains are now gold and silver, and snowcaps have been added to increase the depiction of mountains and to make the fact that it is a big "M" slightly less obvious.  It has simple shapes and colors, and I feel it represents the state better than the current seal and blue combo.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

New Flag for Maine

The flag of Maine takes us to that old standard, the state seal on blue:

It has all the aspects of a boredom-inducing design: a Latin phrase, two flanking figures (though I am a fan of the lion and unicorn that the Brits use, but I digress), the name of the state along the bottom, all on a dark blue background.

For this flag, the fix is pretty straightforward.  Back around the beginning of the 20th Century, Maine had a much more interesting flag, one which could actually be recognized from a distance.  It took the pine tree that is often used as a symbol of New England and placed the North Star (appropriate for the most northern state on the East Coast) in the corner:

It's fairly simple, the buff-colored background is uncommon, and though only two symbols are used, they are both packed with meaning and suit Maine much better than they would almost any other state.