Monday, June 20, 2011

New Flags for Oregon and Arkansas

This week we return to the USA, at least for a little while.  Arkansas and Oregon will be the subjects, with a minor tweak for the former and three suggestions (though there are eight more) for the latter. 

Arkansas is one of those flags that tripped at the finish line:

This could have been a great flag.  The shapes are simple and evoke the diamond mines of the state, the four central stars are all about the history, the red field helps it stand out from it's 49 siblings, and it even lets them use some Confederate imagery without being too obvious about it.  Why, oh why did they put the name in the middle?! 

The blog I often think of as a predecessor, Your State Flag Stinks, did the expected and removed the name and enlarged and centered the stars:

In the spirit of uniqueness (which I don't always follow, but will this time) I need to do something different and this is what I came up with:

The diamond shape is retained, along with the colors and the perimeter of stars, which denote Arkansas' place as the 25th state.  In the original design (circa 1912) there were only three central stars with three different meanings: 1)The three nations to which Arkansas had belonged (Spain, France, USA), 2) 1803, the year of the Louisiana Purchase, of which Arkansas was a part, and 3) the fact that Arkansas was the third state admitted from the area that had been the Louisiana Purchase (Louisiana and Missouri were the first two).  The fourth star was added in the 1920's and stood for a fourth nation, the CSA.

I like the three star design better, mostly because those stars can have three separate meanings, while with a fourth star they only have one.  I filled in the white space because, I dunno, lots of flags have significant white space, and I thought it looked good.  Plus, if you squint and use your imagination, those three stars are almost in the shape of an "A."

Oregon's flag is unique among (current) state flags in that it has different designs on the obverse and reverse sides.  The front side is the typical seal on blue arrangement:

The use of only one color helps simplify it a bit, but the wagon train, eagle, date, and state name all combine to make this a pretty terrible flag.  The one saving grace can be found on the reverse:

A friendly little beaver, all alone on the back of the flag.  Again, only one color was a good decision, but the attempt at shading and detail only serves to detract from the design.

My original thought for Oregon was to use the flag of Portland, the state's largest city, which is pretty cool.  It consists of distinct colors, a simple design, and no text or complicated imagery:

The colors here can stand for generic flag things (agricultural, mineral wealth, peace, rivers and oceans, etc.) and I was going to leave it at that, but then I discovered that the people of Oregon had already taken matters into their own hands.  Back in 2008, to celebrate the sesquicentennial (150th) anniversary of the state, the Oregonian (a major newspaper in Portland) ran a contest for new flag designs.  Sadly it wasn't recognized by the state government, but they still came up with some pretty neat ideas:

This was the winning design, a valiant effort which took the beaver, an important symbol of the state, and turned it into an appealing, four color design, vaguely reminiscent of Thailand or Costa Rica.  The beaver is taken directly from the current flag and is a little busy for my taste, but it is head and shoulders above the original.  It won the plurality, but with only 20% of the vote, it was hardly the clear victor.  Most of the designs were good (though there was one that appeared to be mimicking Maryland's flag and wasn't able to pull it off) and I'd encourage everybody to take a look.  My personal favorite came in a close second with 17% of the vote:

If you have read any other entries on this blog, you'll realize I'm a sucker for tree imagery on flags.  Not sure why, but they just look good.  This one could be simplified a little, but as the entrant described it, "Blue for our Pacific Coast, white for our snow-capped mountains, green for our forests and golden for the grassy plains of eastern Oregon."  "Wish I'd thought of that," is about all I can say.

Monday, June 13, 2011

New Flags for Alberta and Manitoba

Today marks the end of my Canadian posts, unless of course I can think of something better or Canada gets some new provinces (I'm looking forward to the Turks and Caicos provincial flag).  Sadly, I did not save Alberta and Manitoba for last because they were the best, rather the opposite.  Both flags follow formula used by a number of provinces, one using the Union Jack in the upper hoist and the shield, the other just a shield.  In my struggle to improve these flags, I had difficulty finding appropriate symbols.  In the end, I'm not sure if I succeeded, but we'll leave that for comments.


Very similar to Ontario's flag, the only difference being the lower half of the shield.  There isn't much to say in favor of this flag, beyond the fact that I like the red field.  Like Saskatchewan, Manitoba is one of the prairie provinces; rectangular, flat, and a huge farming area.  I took none of that into consideration (though the flag is rectangular, does that count?).  The resulting idea reminds me more of Greenland than anything else, but that may just be the color scheme:

For the first time in this series, I've allowed a reference to England/the UK to remain on a flag, mostly because it looked a little boring with just the bison.  You may recognize that bison, as he has been lovingly stolen from the flag of Wyoming (they lost the privilege when they took their awesome flag and stuck a seal in the middle of it).  Though the bison is not the most simple of shapes, it has clean lines and isn't too detailed.  Plus, the bison is a symbol of the province, as seen on the original flag's shield.  I think this flag provides a nice contrast between the Old World and New, using the symbol of their former colonial masters alongside a native animal and using only two colors.

I'll admit at the beginning of talking about Alberta, that I was ready to phone this in.  I had saved it for last because I had no good ideas, but I wanted to finish Canada so I could move on to US states again, or Australia or something.  When you see my suggestions, you may still think I wasn't really trying, but you should see the garbage I had been planning to post.  Now that I've raised your expectations, on to the flag:

Blue background, a shield in the middle, it's almost as if Alberta wants to be a state in the US.  The scenery in the shield is nice, I suppose, depicting how Alberta contains plains, hills, and mountains, but couldn't that be any place with a varied terrain?  My initial ideas have been thrown out and not long ago I considered making this my "official" suggestion:

I don't think there would be much argument that this is better than the original, but it still isn't great.  The flowers are stylized depictions of the prairie rose, the provincial flower, which I took from the Franco-Albertan flag.  It's different, it would be recognisable, and it would stand out among Canadian flags, but then I had a better idea.  In several previous posts, I've confessed my love for flags which incorporate maps, despite the problems they can cause, not the least the issue of design.  I think this flag provides a great opportunity to include a stylized map of the province:

The oddly-shaped chunk taken from the lower right corner is meant to make the blue field into the shape of the province.  Like several other Canadian provinces, Alberta has a lot of right angles, but the way it narrows at the base sets it apart.  I left one flower to give it a splash of color.  I tinkered with making the white space a color (and it is meant to be a white area, not an oddly shaped flag like Ohio or Nepal), including red to offset the flower and black to represent the oil wealth of the province, but they just didn't look right.  One could argue that the position of the flower roughly corresponds to the location of the oil sands, but that may be a bit of a stretch.

With that I'll conclude my series on the provinces of Canada.  There have been a lot of interesting comments on these and in the near future I plan to put together a post where I create the flags that have been suggested.  However, for the next few weeks I think I'll return to the USA.  And If I had a catchphrase, I'd put it here.

Monday, June 6, 2011

New Flag for South Dakota

I'm taking a break from Canada this week, largely because I'm having trouble coming up with good flags for Manitoba and Alberta, but with any luck I'll figure them out by next week. 

South Dakota has one thing going for it: Mount Rushmore.  Ok, that's not really fair, but you understand my point.  The big draw of the state, which it freely admits on its flag, are the massive heads carved into the scared mountains of the Lakota (not a bad microcosm of American history):

This flag returns to a familiar template, that of the seal on blue, and it one-ups the terribleness by adding the state name and the state's nickname (I guess).  The fact that the seal is done in only two colors compounds the problem, making the center a confusing, indistinct mess.  If they're really married to the idea of the seal on their flag, they could at least remove the words.  The sunburst behind the seal provides some promise too:

I've kept the sun for two reasons: 1) It makes the flag stand out a bit, as most others just use a circle and 2) because the state nickname of South Dakota was once the Sunshine State.  I'm sure there's some logic in there somewhere.  The text is gone and replaced with some simple symbols, each done with only white and black.  They're meant to represent the four presidents on Mount Rushmore, thus drawing attention to that famous feature without (literally) spelling it out.

The only complaint I could envision (Ok, one of the complaints) is that is looks like a jumble of clip art.  I freely admit that I agree, but I'm of the opinion that a few simple designs with specific meanings are far more preferable than seals and shields that are both too detailed and attempting to pack as much as possible onto a piece of cloth.

I've also noticed this is the second time I've used Lincoln's hat on a flag.  How many others can say that?