Fixing the Bad American State (and Territory) Flags

Discussions on flags used in the Americas (South America, Central America, the Caribbean and North America)
Philip S. Tibbetts
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Re: Fixing the Bad American State (and Territory) Flags

Postby Philip S. Tibbetts » 18 Mar 2013 14:39

Dear All,

As ever I am very grateful for the feedback and pleased that my designs have been positively received. Obviously I was always aware that not everyone was going to be a ‘winner’ but the fact that this community will recognise the effort and research that I put into these is always rewarding.

A couple of reply’s back to some of Vexilo’s specific comments:
Personally although larger emblems are probably best I have no problem with repetition charges, and find that some field divisions/pattern make this a better choice.
The ‘easy for children’ guideline needs to be more interpreted as ‘easy enough fort a child to reproduce sufficiently for it to be recognised. A child will very rarely create a spot on reproduction (having seen enough school flag competition renderings of the St George cross with non-straight lines I can vouch for this). So with Illinois if a child could draw a zig-zag and something dragon or bird-like that would probably be sufficient for recognition
As for Wyoming I just find the red, white, blue of the current flag to be a little generic and lacking in meaning for the state. Additionally flags with borders can fly badly in the wind (as I’m told by a flag manufacturer) as their construction makes the central panels heavy and rigid. As such a ‘optimised’ current flag would be ok but probably not the best flag.

There are a number of designs by others that I’ve seen here and on the Wikia that I think are ‘winners’ (i.e. theoretical front-runners) or may only need a couple of tweaks to make them ‘winners’ – there’s a good few here that I think are easily the best of all designs proposed and would back them over my own efforts. Here is my review and comments against some of these, though obviously there are a number I am still mulling over. If the designers in question are happy for me to do so I could always have a go at working my suggested tweaks up.

Alabama
Leonardo & Lizard Socks – Graphically these have potential (with the Lizard Socks proposal marginally doing it for me based on its elegance) though I’d like to know the reason for the use of the blue before I could say how symbolically appropriate these were. Depending on this I could be happy to support.

Connecticut
Vexilo – A simple and historical flag. I do have a suggested change of perhaps using a bunch of grapes rather than a whole vine, which should make a clearer emblem. This could be a ‘winner’ as far as I’m concerned and one I’d potentially be happy to support.

Florida
VoronX – This may work best as a simple gyronny of sixteen with diagonals of red and vertical/horizontal rays of orange separated by white
Pimsleurable – Distinctive, simple and attractive

Kansas
VoronX 3 – The plain sunflower banner is very elegant, could be a ‘winner’.

Kentucky
VoronX – the horseshoe idea is a nice one, as is the field colour (which inspired my own proposal), though unsurprisingly I don’t really like the use of the stars, it would be better off without them

Michigan
Zervic – Evidentially quite popular and potentially a ‘winner’ though I would maybe like to see two triangles for the peninsular rather than just a straight band at the hoist. Additionally something other than stars to be more related and distinctive to the State (apple blossoms maybe)

Montana
Andrew Rogers 2 – Just a nod to a design that was a strong inspiration to one of my own.

New Hampshire
Pimsleurable 2 – Pretty much perfect and a sure-fire ‘winner’ in my book being historical, simple and distinctive. I would happily back this above my own proposal already. The only tweak I think it needs is to make the buff ‘asterix’ a little thicker.

New Jersey
Leonardo 2 – Simple and distinctive with a strong historical basis. Currently my favourite design for this state, though some of the ‘Old Jersey’ style flags are tempting too.

Washington
Leonardo – Simple and bold, a nice way of arranging the George Washington arms. Admittedly it uses stars, whose over-use is usually one of my pet hates in American vexillography, but in this case, given the arms which are the basis for the design, this is one of only a couple of USA states were using a star would actually be meaningful and appropriate. Can see this being a ‘winner’.

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Leonardo Piccioni
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Re: Fixing the Bad American State (and Territory) Flags

Postby Leonardo Piccioni » 18 Mar 2013 17:37

Stars: the analogy

I think I should make it after the Philip's resistance against stars. As a Brazilian, I understand perfectly the American states fascination to stars; 22 of 27 Brazilian states have stars on their flags (including the Federal District that, in Brazil but not in America, is a de facto state, in my view). The three states with writings on flag (potential worst flags) are among the five absences.

My (not unconditional) support is basically based on three arguments: it's meaningful, it's synthetic and it's simple.

It's meaningful because both Brazil and United States are, in theory, federal states i.e. they are made of semi-autonomous states that agree to keep on the Union for self's and collective's good-will. It's a different model of Philip's homeland, the UK, where local self-government is, basically, devolved. A star on the flag represents this agreement and gladness in keeping on the federation, being part of the federal "constellation". As the flags are self-adopted, it's more genuine than imperialist flags.

It's synthetic because represents the biggest part of states' historiography. Differently of Europe and parts of Asia and Africa, where the first historical registers predates in centuries or millenia Christ, the New World (America) historiography is resumed in more or less 500 years. Being a part of a federal state is a good part of their identity, liking or not.

It's simple because not always you can summarize such a complex concept in a simple geometrical shape.

"Being a star" is a legitimate option, and it maybe should be respected.
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Philip S. Tibbetts
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Re: Fixing the Bad American State (and Territory) Flags

Postby Philip S. Tibbetts » 18 Mar 2013 18:38

Leonardo,

I do hear what you’re saying, particularly your point about the elegant and simple way a star can convey a concept. All your points have validity and in moderation I have no problem with using stars for the reasons you've given. Nonetheless I believe there are genuine concerns about these symbols, largely stemming from their over-use, which I think breaks down to two themes:

Appropriateness – stars seem to be often used to represent something greater. In the US this is often the wider Union. However there are some American flags and proposals that do use stars in what I would consider a focused and appropriate way i.e. in a way that relates to the state specifically rather than the wider union generally (DC flag, Alaska flag, Texas flag, Minnesota proposal, Washington proposal). A flag should say something about the area in question specifically, if part of its symbolism is ‘we’re a part of something else’ it loses distinctiveness and focus on the individual state – indeed it is a sign that the entity in question doesn’t have a particularly strong identity if it has to default to borrowing emblems in absence of having/developing its own. On the whole the stars in state flags could either be replaced by something more unique to that state or just removed entirely.

Differentiation – having so many areas using similar symbolism in such close proximity to each other reduces their visual distinctiveness and arguably devalues their symbolic impact (nor is this something to which the UK is immune either in terms of the ensign that was commonly used across the empire/commonwealth or (as Vexilo will testify) my resistance to the fimbrated crosses that have been adopted in many counties). Taken to extremes we wouldn’t expect every national flag to make reference to the UN flag for instance, if they were it would start to become more difficult to tell them apart. The situation with stars in the US isn’t that bad, but it could still be better.

To me this again comes back to general flag design principles, not only those advocated in the UK but those also promoted in the US. Looking at NAVA’s Good Flag Bad Flag I think the points that I have made above fall nicely into the sections ‘Use Meaningful Symbolism’ and ‘Be Distinctive or be Related’ respectively. Admittedly I am applying these principles pretty strictly but I don’t think that’s a bad thing given the over-use the stars currently have.

Obviously I’m not ruling on this, I can’t force other people to not-use stars but in terms of looking at this from subject specific viewpoint it is an issue worthy of consideration. In my proposals it is certainly a symptom of one of the issues that make American flags poor (if not bad) and is something that can easily be fixed by focussing on making graphically distinctive and symbolically focussed flags.

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Re: Fixing the Bad American State (and Territory) Flags

Postby Jamescnj1 » 21 Mar 2013 04:57

http://img706.imageshack.us/img706/5080 ... lsmore.png

1) Four alternating Blue-and-gold horizontal bars representing the lakes touching Michigan defaced with a saltire with opposite colors representing the peninsulas.

2) Four alternating blue-and-white vertical bars representing the lakes, with two gold stars at the hoist representing the peninsulas.

3) Golden saltire on a white background representing the peninsulas defaced with a four-pointed blue star to represent the lakes.

4) Alternate version of #3 with a blue field, a white saltire surrounding the gold one and a white outline for the star.

5) White field with a blue-and-gold cross. The partitioning into four sections represents the lakes and the two stars in opposite sections represent the peninsulas.

6) Blue field quartered by a large white cross. The partitioned section represent the lakes and the cross represents the peninsulas. In the center is a gold apple-blossom, the official flower of Michigan.

7) Field of alternationg gold-and-blue vertical bars representing the lakes defaced with a white saltire representing the peninsulas.

8) The flag is separated into three unequal sections by a horizontal gold "Y," the fields at the fly represent the peninsulas, separated by water (as represented by the gold) the setion nearest the hoist contains a four-pointed star, representing the lakes.

9) Blue field defaced with two white horizontal bars offset toward the bottom, representing the peninsulas. At the centre-top is a gold four-pointed star, representing the lakes.

10) Blue field defaced by four white stripes (A Fess Dancy, if my book is anything to go by) offset toward the bottom representing the lakes with two white stars representing the peninsulas

11) Two stars representing the peninsulas separated by a blue diagonal, representing the lakes.

12) A Yellow canton containing two stars (again, for the two peninsulas) on a blue field with four white stripes representing the great lakes.

13) I mainly added the Axe and scythe to appease my friend, who likes to see pictures on flags. I don't personally, but logging and agriculture have been big parts of Michigan's economy in the past. The shield could contain something else, but I added it because I don't like flags with only stripes. Five alternating white-and-blue stripes for the five great lakes.

14) A blue-and-white horizontal tricolour (the blue bars representing the peninsula) defaced by a blue diamond containing a yellow four-pointed star for the lakes

15) Five stripes for the lakes, two stars for the peninsulas.

16) Two vertical bars for the peninsulas separated by a neutral face defaced by a four-pointed star representing the four great lakes touching Michigan.

17) Four blue wavy vertical stripes offset to the hoist representing the lakes, with two stars near the hoist for the peninsulas.

18) A blue field defaced with four white vertical stripes for the lakes, a white canton contains a saltire for the peninsulas.

19) White saltire on a blue field (for the peninsulas) defaced with a gold-rimmed blue diamond with a white four-pointed star, representing the lakes.

20) This one is Mr. Zervic's proposal, but I did away with the green band for my own aesthetic reasons.

Some of these are the same because I couldn't think of what to change or I was happy with them as they were. I did expand on the four-pointed star theme as much as possible, and I like a lot of these, so it's hard to choose a favourite. I kept the five-pointed stars because they're a big part of American culture, to represent the Union, and general aesthetics. I don't really care if they are over-used on flags; if a flag uses them appropriately, it shouldn't matter.

Philip S. Tibbetts
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Re: Fixing the Bad American State (and Territory) Flags

Postby Philip S. Tibbetts » 21 Mar 2013 19:59

It’s great to see so much enthusiasm and effort being put into this. It is actually a bit difficult to choose amongst these given that there are some great ideas but many of your designs are held back by the use of white and gold touching each other.

Admittedly the heraldic rule of tincture, whilst being a good guideline, does not always hold true in vexillography. For instance heraldic colours can touch each other provided that a) there is a good contrast between light and dark shades and b) where these colours meet is a simple field division or ordinary rather than being a charge on a field. These vexillographic considerations are why flags such as Germany, Devon, Amsterdam all work well. However the rule of tincture does still hold completely true in vexillography with gold and white – whether for charges or field divisions there simply isn’t the contrast between these metals. As such I think some of your designs would be helped by you having a play with the colours to see whether there is a better arrangement that avoids this yellow-white issue.

Currently my favourite designs here are 9, 10 and 19 (though I still prefer Zervic’s version as it provides a clear stripe) and there are plenty of others with interesting ideas in (notably 6 and 8).

I still maintain that the stars are lacking is symbolical appropriateness as they say more about ‘federal USA’ than they do ‘Michigan’ in particular (whereas the Texas use of the star says ‘Lone Star State’ which is much more appropriate to the state specifically). However, in all fairness, the four legged star that you use is symbolically better and graphically more distinctive. Nonetheless the apple blossom was a much more unique and refreshing charge to see used (to help remedy the white-gold problem here you could put the blossom on a green disc that are sometimes called ‘pomme’ (apple) in heraldry). I’d certainly encourage the use of other such directly symbolic ideas, especially as such symbols could go on to make good ‘emblems’ that represent the state independent of the flag (such as on sports logos etc.

Your idea of adding significance to the number of stripes made me think of a design which could be a series of horizontal stripes as follows (where x=the height of the flag): x/9 blue, x/9 white, x/9 blue, x/3 gold, x/9 blue, x/9 white, x/9 blue. The two white stripes here would represent the two peninsulas and the four blue hoops represent the four lakes. On the yellow stripe could be a green ‘pomme’ disc with a white apple blossom on it to represent ‘one united Michigan’.

Finally, after Vexilo agreed off-line, please find my idea for an amended version of his Connecticut suggestion – which was the historical ‘canton’ flag with the vine replaced for a bunch of grapes which should be a bolder symbol
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Marcus Wendel
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Re: Fixing the Bad American State (and Territory) Flags

Postby Marcus Wendel » 23 Mar 2013 17:35

Keystone wrote:Emiss, I love your suggestions for Pennsylvania. I think it's quite obvious that you are from Pittsburgh, I must say! :D Any of those trumps our current state flag by a mile. I'd probably go with 3, 11, or 17.

vexilo wrote:Looking through the myriad designs for Pennsylvania from Emiss I must first congratulate you on your industry! You have provided so many designs it’s somewhat overwhelming to be honest. Is there a rationale for all these designs somewhere? On the whole I am very keen on your white, black and yellow colour scheme and I of course recognise the keystone device but I’m perplexed by the three small circles or dots!? An earlier proposal for the state had included 5 circles as a nod to five distinct regions in the state. I think my preferred designs are 26, 43, 49 and 51 although regardless of their symbolism the three small dots on the last three are too “fussy” and detract from the overall effect of the designs.


The three circles are from William Penn's coat of arms.


The above post by Keystone was waiting in the approval queue so perhaps you did not see it on the previous page.

/Marcus

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Leonardo Piccioni
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Re: Fixing the Bad American State (and Territory) Flags

Postby Leonardo Piccioni » 23 Mar 2013 20:43

My first thought to a new Connecticut flag was very similar to Philip's last amendment; I'm also a great fan of Vexilo's proposal. I tested vertical, horizontal and diagonally displayed grapes, square and rectangular cantons etc. etc. But, in the end, the version I'm currently working on is based on the symbolism of the current seal: the same way that there were three grapevines representing the three colonies that originated the state (Connecticut, New Haven and Saybrook), I put three stripes on the flag; three grapes isn't a bad idea at all, but I decided to keep it simpler.

I was working with a more "naturalistic" grape silhouette, but I ask for Philip's license to use his grapes, at least on this forum. It's OK to you, Philip? He made a great work, and maybe I try one by myself in a future occasion.

The first flag I'll show is sure the most realistic one, but it seems like a propaganda of the very appreciated Argentinean wines.

connecticut_philip-grape.png

I made many changes on colors order and this one seems the more reasonable.

connecticut1_philip-grape.png

They weren't yet fixed concepts, so I can change something afterwards.
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Visit my blogs about flags: Create/Recreate - Flags, etc. | Flag Review |Flags of U.S. States.
Visit the Vexillology Wiki, an initiative to propagate American and Canadian flag proposals.

Philip S. Tibbetts
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Re: Fixing the Bad American State (and Territory) Flags

Postby Philip S. Tibbetts » 23 Mar 2013 22:26

You, and anyone else, are welcome to use any element of the artwork I've posted here - so yes feel free to use my grapes in your own proposals Leonardo.

Of the two you've posted here I prefer the first as it has better colour contrast (although you've used a dark and light shade I find blue and purple a little too close to each other as hues) though you are right that it does look like the flag of some Argentinian vineyard!

I like the symbolism of the three colonies, which would be good to use either as stripes or if you elect to use three bunches of grapes.

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Re: Fixing the Bad American State (and Territory) Flags

Postby Jamescnj1 » 03 May 2013 18:59

A revision of my earlier designs. No Yellow touching white here!

http://img835.imageshack.us/img835/2584/flags3.png

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Marcus Wendel
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Re: Fixing the Bad American State (and Territory) Flags

Postby Marcus Wendel » 17 Aug 2013 19:33

Anyone who has any new designs to share with us?

/Marcus


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