Monday, April 25, 2011

New Flags for Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Nunavut

In this first international edition of Fix the Flags, we'll be looking at a few Canadian provinces that could use a bit of work.  Each of these is just a little tweak, I'll get to the ones that really need fixing in later posts.

First off, we have Saskatchewan:

One the surface, not a bad flag, especially compared to the flags of many other provinces.  The green and yellow combination make for a unique color-scheme that really stands out.  The two issues I have with it are the intricacies of the flower and that mess in the upper-left corner.  While the lion looks really cool, it also looks like a pain to draw and the wheat is, well, just wheat.  I get that Saskatchewan is one of the prairie provinces and is a major grain growing area, but wheat just doesn't seem very inspired, so it's gone.  What I had left, after a little rearranging, was this:

I know I said the flower was too busy, but it also looks good.  The red contrasts nicely with the green and the stem extending into the yellow both ties the two color bands together (preventing it from looking like Ukraine) and can be symbolic of the prairie, which is incredibly flat.  I also changed the ratio, bringing it to the common 2:3.

Next comes Ontario:

After working with state flags of the USA, the red field of this flag is a refreshing change of pace.  However, the Union Jack/red field/shield design is also used by Manitoba, making these two nearly indistinguishable from a distance (both are versions of the Canadian Red Ensign, the flag used by the Canadian government from 1957 to 1965). 

The shield of this flag, unlike the many seals in the US is comparatively simple, just three maple leaves representing Canada and the cross of St. George to denote allegiance to King George III, the monarch when the Loyalists who fled the 13 Colonies formed what would become Ontario.

As an American, I'm not a huge fan of ol' Georgie 3, but that's not the reason I'm removing the cross from the shield.  I'm also taking the Union Jack, because even though both speak to an identity within the British Empire and their colonial heritage, they are symbols that can be easily applied to many other places around the world (like Bermuda, the Falklands, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, etc.).  I feel like Ontario should use items a little closer to home.  The resulting flag maintains the red field, but shifts the shield and symbols around:

As I said, the cross of St. George is gone, as is the Union Jack.  The shield was enlarged and moved to the center of the flag, and I tweaked the ratio.  The only addition I made was the inclusion of two stylized trillium, the state flower of Ontario.  They seemed to be a better symbol of the province than the attachments to faded imperial glory.

Last, we come to Nunavut, the northern Canadian territory that covers 7 billion square miles and is home to 18 people (these are just rough estimates):

Admittedly, their flag is really nice, combining the heritage of the Inuit and a nod to geography into a simple and highlyy recognizable design.  It really should be in a "fine as is" post, but I have one small suggestion.  I would switch the colors of the star and left field, so it would look like this:

On further reflection, it may have looked better as it was, but oh well.

Monday, April 18, 2011

New Flag for Missouri

Missouri's flag has some good points, but is in need of a tune up (Sorry, I had a couple car references left from the Michigan post):

The tricolor design is little used in American state flags and is used to great effect on this one.  It has the busyness of the seal in the center, but the fact that it is flanked by bears makes it cooler than most others.  Even the ring of stars looks good, referencing Missouri's position with a simple, appealing pattern.  My biggest concern is the similarity with the flag of Paraguay:

So what is to be done?  Missouri has had this design since 1913 and 98 years seems like long enough.  Luckily, Missouri's cities have some fine flags from which to draw inspiration, particularly Jefferson City and St. Louis:

In case you couldn't tell, this is the flag of Jefferson City, the state capital.  It shares the color scheme and ring of stars with the state flag, but throws in the map of the state and rivers, along with the state capitol replacing the seal.  I like this flag, and with a few minor tweaks it could serve the entire state:

Simple fixes, just remove the text and the capitol and it suites the whole state perfectly. 

I am a fan of maps on flags, though many other are not.  That could spring from a love of maps, but I think they add a real sense of place and an immeadiate connection between the flag and whereever it may represent.  This can range from the exact representation of Cyprus on their flag to the highly stylized flag of The Gambia.  I can understand the issues involved in exactly mapping an area on a flag.  What if the map is wrong or includes areas in dispute (see Cyprus again)?  Missouri could be a challenge in this regard because the Mississippi River occasionaly changes course, shifting parts of the state to the other bank (take a close look at the river border of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas sometime and you'll see what I mean).  Though such areas are generally very small, there's no reason to risk it, so I'll scrap this particular design and try for a more stylized one:

The flag of St. Louis is a great example of this.  It represents both the history and geography of the city with a very simple pattern.  The fleur-de-lis represents the city's French history, while the wavy blue lines denote the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.  This can serve as the template for the state, I just need to shift the symbolizism around a little:

Here is my suggestion for a new Missouri flag.  It provides a link to the states French and American history (red, white and blue) and a basic map of the state, simplifiing the courses of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, as the former flows along the eastern border of the state and the latter bisects it from west to east.  Specific symbols of Kansas City, St. Louis, and other locals could be added, but I think it works best without those additions.  It has clean colors and design and packs a lot of meaning in a simple image.

Monday, April 11, 2011

New Flag for Michigan

Michigan's flag.  Boring, except the deer and moose are more interesting than the generic personifications of liberty or whatever:

Waaaay to much text.  Plus there are several different ways you could go with this flag.  Michigan has a rich history from which one could draw, but they chose the same tired formula as 20 other states.

My first thought was cars.  Detroit is the Motor City, Henry Ford built his factories there, America learned to drive in cars made in Michigan (figuratively at least, my first car was made on Honshu).  Of course, that could be tricky to pull off.  If a car was used as the central emblem, which car do you pick?  The Model-T is the most famous of the early models, but then there is the concern that GM wouldn't be happy flying a flag with a Ford on it.  That argument could be made against almost any model made in Michigan.  Heck, even just a simple stylized steering wheel would probably draw criticism for looking too much like the Mercedes logo.  So the automobile is a non-starter.

I suppose one could just put the Red Wings symbol on piece of white cloth, but you'd probably run into copyright problems.  I'd bet it would be popular though.

As a jumping off point, I'll be using the flag of Detroit, mainly because it is one of those city flags that just looks really good:

At first glance, this flag seems pretty busy, but so does Maryland's and that is one of my favorites.  Ignoring the seal for a moment, the flag recalls the USA, France, and England, while sticking to (fairly, the lions could use some work) simple symbols and only four colors.  Even the seal is not bad compared to many others out there.  I mean, how many people would put a representation of their city burning on the seal?  Apparently, Detroit did.  With a little cleaning up, this flag could easily serve the entire state.

One other issue to keep in mind is the differences between the two peninsula's of Michigan.  Though containing only a small portion of the state's population (roughly 1/30th) it is integral to the identity of the state.  Luckily, this flag provided a way to represent them both:

Admittedly, I didn't do a whole lot to this flag, just removed the text and the background.  I kept the two ladies though to symbolize the two peninsulas.  The flag looks good with that circle blank, but I decided to hang on to them.  One could even claim that their arms are touching to reference the Mackinaw Bridge.  I won't do that, because it's kind of a stretch, but someone else could.  No matter what is in the center though, this is a far more striking and recognizable flag for Michigan than their current model.  Maybe it's time to trade that one in for one with power windows. . . Ok, I'm done stretching that metaphor now.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Alaska, New Mexico, Texas, and South Carolina

Let's bang a couple of these out.

1) Alaska
Yeah, it's blue and that's not real original, but this is an excellent flag that gets the blue right.  It is the deep blue of the sky, the sort of color where you would expect to see the stars.  The North Star is great for the most northern of all the states.  Ursa Major (the Big Dipper) shows the way to find the North Star and symbolizes the bear, yet another symbol of Alaska.  It also has a great back story, having been designed by a 13 year old Aleut boy back in the 1920's.  Excellent job Alaska, A+:

2) New Mexico
Another simple design with a lot of meaning and an eye-catching color scheme.  The symbol of the sun is taken from the Zia Pueblo, a native community, while the colors are taken from the Spanish who ruled the area for centuries.  It's no surprise it was voted #1 in the 2001 survey by the North American Vexillological Association and was the winner of the March Madness competition over at Vexillophilia:

3) Texas
Hard to argue with one of the most iconic flags.  It's on shirts, hats, belt buckles, cookie jars, bumper stickers, and on and on.  It has got to be one the most ubiquitous flags, and for good reason.  It's got historical connections, recalling the Texas Republic and Texas' nickname, the "Lone Star State," with its, um, single star.  Don't mess with success, or Texas:

4) South Carolina
One of the few other flags that is worthy of keeping the blue background, South Carolina's is historical, simple, and iconic.  The flag may have a bit too much detail in the center, but if a kid draws a white palm tree (yes, I know it's a palmetto, I'm being vague on purpose) with a crescent moon and colors it blue, there's no question which flag they're thinking about.  Now all we need to do is convince them to stick to this flag and the national one on their buildings: