Monday, March 26, 2012

New Flag for Connecticut

This week we'll look at the flag of Connecticut:

Yet another seal-on-blue with text and lots of fussy details.  The blue is a lighter shade than most (at least in this version, I have also seen it with a darker shade), but otherwise is virtually indistinguishable from others.  The grapevines are meant to represent either the first towns of Connecticut Colony or the three colonies that began in the area that is now Connecticut (Saybrook, New Haven, and Connecticut).  I toyed with the idea of enlarging the grapevines and re-centering them on just a blue background, but I wasn't able to simplify them to my satisfaction.  When I tried to remove the detail but retain the basic shape, I just ended up with a purple and brown design that looked more like a "$" than anything.

The words and seal would have to be removed, of course, and following my experiments with the grapevines, I decided to get rid of them too.  Luckily for me, Connecticut has another popular symbol, the charter oak.  Back in the 1680's, James II tried to consolidate his North American colonies to make them easier to manage and thus ordered that the colonies of New England (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut) be combined into a Dominion of New England.  This was not a popular idea as each of the colonies valued their individuality, and when the new royal governor came to collect Connecticut's original royal charter to symbolically destroy it, it was hidden from him in the trunk of a large oak tree, which came to be known as the charter oak.  The dominion was so unpopular, it only lasted three years.  The tree stood well into the 19th century and was even used on the back of Connecticut's state quarter in 1999.

If I were a better artist, or perhaps more skilled with Microsoft Paint, I would have created a better charter oak image for the flag, something along the lines of the palmetto that South Carolina uses.  Since I can't though, I just took the tree image from the flag of Oakland, California, figuring that a city called OAK-land would probably use an oak.  And besides, few people can tell deciduous trees apart in real life, let alone when they're only stylized representations on a flag.  I also added a yellow border to make the background more interesting. 

In the end though, I couldn't decide between a green tree or a yellow one.  I'm leaning toward the yellow, but only because it keeps the flag to two colors.  I'll leave it to others to choose between them:

The yellow used is the same shade that is present in the current flag, the green though is darker than the current grapevine leaves.  I found the lighter green was not well defined on the blue background.

Monday, March 19, 2012

New Flag for Wisconsin

Wisconsin's flag, ugh:

I don't have any criticism for this flag that I haven't used for all the other seal and blue flags.  There is just too much going on, not to mention the huge "WISCONSIN" and "1848."

When I usually try to fix a flag like this, and I don't have any brilliant ideas, I turn to the city flags in that state.  Some American cities have truly amazing flags.  There are a lot of seal on random-background-color ones as well, but maybe because fewer people have a hand in the design (must be easier to get a flag idea through a city council than through a state legislature) or because there are so many city flags it is statistically more likely that some of them will be good, there are some great designs out there.  For Wisconsin, I started by checking out the flag of the largest city, Milwaukee:

Hmm, perhaps I spoke too soon.  It certainly is more interesting than the state flag, but it is just as busy, if not more so.  The yellow on blue looks good, sort of reminds me of the flag of Kazakhstan.  The next largest city in Wisconsin is Madison, the state capital, and a place that has better flag sense than it's larger counterpart:

I'm not exactly sure why they're using the same Native American sun symbol that New Mexico uses on it's flag, but it looks really good.  To make it appeal to all of Wisconsin, I just made a slight tweak:

I flipped the orientation, mostly just for the heck of it, and I changed the lower triangle to green.  But I didn't use just any green, I chose the exact shade used by the Green Bay Packers.  If there is a team that epitomizes it's state better than the Packers, I'd be surprised (maybe the Red Sox).  This provides a fifth color to the flag (blue, yellow, white, black, green) while keeping it simple, as well as providing a nod to contemporary Wisconsin. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

New Flag for Louisiana

Louisiana is another state with a seal-on-blue design, one unique because of the four pelicans, but otherwise unremarkable.  It went through only a few minor changes for much of its 20th century history and looked like this:

However, back in 2010, the state decided to correct decades of haphazardly following their own flag guidelines and updated it:

This flag has one of the more realistic images I've ever seen (on a flag, anyway).  Compared to the previous versions, this one looks like the birds were painted by James Audubon.  As much as I like the detailed and biologically accurate pelicans, they go against the basic idea of flag simplicity.  Louisiana's is more recognizable than most of the other seal and blue flags, but that isn't good enough, especially when the state has a really awesome design in its past:

This is the flag of the Republic of Louisiana, a country that existed during the brief period between the state's secession from the United States in January, 1861 and its joining the Confederate States a few weeks later.  It was never recognized by any foreign governments, but it had a great flag.  This flag was used through the Civil War, alongside an early form of the pelican banner.  Sadly for me, this design has already been proposed as a replacement at another blog, so I'll have to come up with something on my own.

My first idea was to simplify the pelican design, removing most of the detail of the nest and wings, as well as the banner, and enlarging the birds.  I used the version from the pre-2010 flag because the earlier, more cartoony design was easier to alter without losing the basic idea.  The symbolism of the pelican is well suited to the Pelican State, and the "pelican in her piety" imagry dates back to the Middle Ages in Europe, where it was thought the pelican was such a good mother that she would make herself bleed to feed her hatchlings.  An image with a history that rich is too good to discard.

That design was ok, but from a distance, it would be virtually indistinguishable from either the current flag or the flags of several other states; it would just be a big white splotch on a blue background.  The solution I eventually came to was this:

I've made the pelicans a little smaller and moved them to the upper-left corner, similar to Nevada's flag.  I used the shade of blue from the current flag, but it was kind of boring with a mostly empty blue field.  Thus the red stripe on the right.  The red doesn't have any particular significance, though I suppose it could be reminiscent of the Third National Flag of the Confederacy, but I just chose it because I thought it looked good.  If Tennessee can have a stripe with no specific meaning, I don't see why Louisiana can't as well.

Monday, March 5, 2012

New Flag for Pennsylvania

I went to college up in Pennsylvania and grew used to seeing their flag fairly often.  For some reason, I often got into arguments with a friend of mine over the identity of said flag.  She, a native of the Pittsburgh area, would claim that the flag we saw was that of New York.  I don't know why she thought that, maybe she just wished PA had a better flag or it was a weird memory thing, but it was a long running dispute between the two of us.  I'm not sure where I was going with that story, except maybe to point out the "danger" involved in not having a recognizable state flag, so here's what I'm talking about:

It's just a seal on dark blue, so there's not much else to say.  The horses are neat, I guess, but although text isn't great at relaying tone, I hope my extreme indifference and resignation to this type of design is being felt. 

This flag is boring.  I could go into further detail, but anyone who has read any of my other posts can probably identify why.

Pennsylvania is one of the original thirteen colonies, with a rich history including such luminaries as Ben Franklin, Thaddeus Stevens, and James Buchanan (I don't actually consider Buchanan to be a luminary, I think he was one the worst presidents America has ever had, but he was from Pennsylvania).  As such you would think they could come up with an interesting flag design, but as the above image shows, you'd be wrong.

In thinking about a new design for PA, I tried to identify symbols that were unique to the state.  The one I kept coming back to was the Keystone.  Pennsylvania is often referred to as the Keystone State, and as it is a simple, straightforward design, it should be easy to incorporate.  One example I found of this was made by VoronX over at the Flag Forum site:

My favorite part of this design is the diagonal stripe, which mimic the way the Appalachian Mountains run diagonally through the state.  Blue for the rivers, lakes, and that tiny corner that could be said to be touching the Atlantic, black for coal and industry, and green for agriculture.  Using the template of St. Paul, Minnesota's flag, here's what I've developed:

I've put two designs up because I couldn't decide between them.  I like the idea of just blue, yellow, and black on the first flag; it provides decent contrast.  I also like the addition of green to the bottom design, though that may just be because I like green in general.  The star doesn't have any specific PA meaning, I just thought it breaks up the design without being too busy.  The placement of the keystone was also deliberate, with just a small area of blue spilling over.

On a personal note, I just noticed that I've been working on this blog for a year now, so happy blog-birthday to me!