This is why we can't have nice flags
August 13, 2019 8:45 AM   Subscribe

City flags are notoriously bad, and Seattle's is no exception. So last month alt-weekly The Stranger ran a contest for replacement designs, got a lot of cool submissions, and then, well, then came the jackassery.
posted by hishtafel (54 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
I came here to want a version of a rainbow but *pounds table* o r c a f a c e

0 W 0
posted by zinful at 8:49 AM on August 13 [8 favorites]


Teeth too rounded, need to be pointier (Duck Duck Go image search; safe for work, unsafe for seals)
posted by filthy light thief at 8:52 AM on August 13 [3 favorites]


I like the orca, and I think its name should beFlaggy McFlagface.
posted by Foosnark at 8:56 AM on August 13 [20 favorites]


well if that isn't the best image search I've seen all week

sure it's only tuesday but honestly I'll be searching (ANIMAL)mouth instead of grading now
posted by zinful at 8:58 AM on August 13 [3 favorites]


Orca face forever
posted by bq at 9:01 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


egads, the online troll is relatively forthcoming and in possession of good design taste. I don't know what to think.
posted by Think_Long at 9:04 AM on August 13 [6 favorites]


The end result is a surprisingly pleasant-looking flag that still looks basically like one expects of a flag, I have to say, even if the orca was a cool idea. This whole thing at least proves that, no, flags don't have to be ugly if you just have an actual designer do the work. I just wish they were getting properly paid instead of this whole "win a contest" thing.
posted by Sequence at 9:06 AM on August 13 [9 favorites]


IDK, I'm just some random person, but why wouldn't the Emerald City have an emerald flag? Or at least nod that way.

The orca thing seems like it would be cool for 15 minutes. It makes a great beach towel design, I will admit.
posted by bonehead at 9:09 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


i love me some jackassery
posted by entropicamericana at 9:09 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


Yeah the orca flag is cute but it reeks of that one time Hamilton, Ohio tried to rebrand itself as Hamilton!, Ohio.
posted by rikschell at 9:11 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


Chicago's city flag is awesome.
posted by hwestiii at 9:13 AM on August 13 [12 favorites]


I quite like the DC flag.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:13 AM on August 13 [4 favorites]


ohhh, that's what that was all about.

I like the orca flag as a design; it's honestly pretty cool graphics. I like the winning flag as a flag, though, if that makes sense. It's lovely.
posted by kalimac at 9:17 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


egads, the online troll is relatively forthcoming and in possession of good design taste. I don't know what to think.

It's because now we lack the proper distance perspective, yet someday we'll reminisce nostalgically upon this era, this golden age, of trolls and trolling.
posted by otherchaz at 9:17 AM on August 13


The winning flag is quite nice. The emerald one makes me think of Zelda gems and the red, white, and black behind it is a bad color combo. Yuck!

The orca one is pretty sweet though.
posted by freecellwizard at 9:20 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


That “emerald isthmus” is really strong design but has an almost authoritarian feeling to it. Like it’s a great flag for when the national government crumbles and Seattle becomes an autonomous, regionally dominant city-state.
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:22 AM on August 13 [27 favorites]


The ultimately winning flag is fine, but the actual winner here is still definitely Bradley Lockhart, who will probably make more money off his online store than the value of the contest prize.

Honestly I think I like #1 the most.

I just checked and apparently my hometown does have a flag, but it breaks almost every rule for flag design in the original post. However I've always been fond of our city logo. They really ought to change the flag to contain nothing but the logo.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:37 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


We don't get an orca flag until we aren't killing them, dammit.

I rather like the current dumb flag -- the kelp/seafoam corner looks great waving in the wind, which I think is more interesting than flat graphics. But a cheerful orca flag right now is like bulldozing everything to build The Mansions at Deer Run Woods. ca-ching
posted by clew at 9:38 AM on August 13 [3 favorites]


one of the best
posted by robbyrobs at 9:38 AM on August 13 [3 favorites]


That “emerald isthmus” is really strong design but has an almost authoritarian feeling to it.

Plus the name brings to mind a urinary tract infection.

I would vote Orca but it needs more Balam. As do they all. I so wish he lived in Seattle.
posted by y2karl at 9:40 AM on August 13


The current flag has a kind of terrifying kraken vibe to it, which I actually kind of like. More terrifying kraken flag designs, please!
posted by Zalzidrax at 9:52 AM on August 13




The orca flag is funny; the jackassery should not be rewarded; the orca flag is probably better branding for fans of a local sports team/venture.
posted by pykrete jungle at 9:56 AM on August 13


showbiz_liz - I'm in Raleigh! /wave
posted by freecellwizard at 9:58 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


We don't get an orca flag until we aren't killing them, dammit.

Hey, how do you think Chief Sealth ended up on the current flag?

What, too dark?
posted by loquacious at 10:14 AM on August 13 [9 favorites]


Okay, few points; First, Filthy Light Thief, you scarred the shit out of my pet salmon, so thanks for that I'll have to live with a wound up fish for the next couple days. Second, the original flag is pretty good, I think this is just a case of change for change sake. Third, Jon_evil, Seattle will never become the regionally dominant city-state if Vancouver BC has anything to say about it. Plus if we team up with Portland we have you surrounded. Fourth, and last, Vancouvers hockey team already uses an orca in its branding, so you copycats cannot have it.
posted by Keith Talent at 10:20 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


I feel it's only right to mention that after I saw this earlier I've been singing "Orca Face" to the tune of "Tannenbaum" at random moments. Still trying to decide if that's a point in its favour or not.
posted by Quindar Beep at 10:26 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


The winning design is boring, forgettable, inoffensive, and in no way would visually associate itself with anywhere and might just be a bank sign. Quite a few of the proposals looked more like proofs to send to a local bank than flag designs, really. Ultimately though, if I'm reading this right, none of it matters, the city won't be adopting any of the flags. The Orca flag was the most memorable and this story probably wouldn't go anywhere without it. If this publication gets to call "jackassery" then it should be noted they themselves are committing jackassery. If anything, the guy who used this jackass publicity stunt to promote and sell products and advertise their graphic design chops is less of a jackass than the jackasses at the wannabe-Austin-Chronicle who set up this deal.
posted by GoblinHoney at 10:27 AM on August 13 [7 favorites]


Toronto's official city flag has an actual alien planet from Star Trek: The Next Generation depicted on it. Checkmate.
posted by 256 at 10:28 AM on August 13


I feel it's only right to mention that after I saw this earlier I've been singing "Orca Face" to the tune of "Tannenbaum" at random moments. Still trying to decide if that's a point in its favour or not.

How would you feel about singing it to the tune of "Baby Shark" instead?
posted by chrominance at 10:28 AM on August 13 [4 favorites]


Louisville, KY - my old hometown - used to have a good flag, but then they replaced it with one that was clearly drawn out on a ruled notebook and also has a bit of a "we have you in our sights" vibe to it.

Living in Tacoma now, I was hoping that we could show up our eternal rivals up north as I have seen some really excellent design (and how do you get better than "city of destiny" for a motto), but alas, we merely made a coin and stuck it on a flag. We did, however, accommodate the sovereign citizens by making it available both with and without gold fringe, at a somewhat absurd price, in case you were wondering what the edge cases are for places with no income tax to supplement their revenue.
posted by MysticMCJ at 10:32 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


Pocatello has a new flag that seems to follow the design standards established in the Vexillological pamphlet. I'm curious if 30 or 100 years from now we will find all these minimal flags based around simplistic shapes and vibrant colors to be absolute eyesores. Is "good design" timeless?
posted by cloeburner at 10:47 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]




256: Toronto's official city flag has an actual alien planet from Star Trek: The Next Generation depicted on it. Checkmate.

What the Toronto flag might have looked like (BlogTo, 2012).
posted by filthy light thief at 10:55 AM on August 13


Milwaukee is going through the same thing and man alive the bitching from _all_ quarters that the new flag isn't a) official b) properly fielded c) unique enough d) sufficiently representational is kind of mindblowing.

Hasn't stopped it from cropping every-goddamn-where, just the same.
posted by Kyol at 11:06 AM on August 13


Seattle? I thought this was the new flag

No, no, that one is still alive and kicking.
posted by loquacious at 11:27 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


The winning design is boring, forgettable, inoffensive, and in no way would visually associate itself with anywhere [....]

So, perfect for Seattle, then?
posted by webmutant at 11:36 AM on August 13 [5 favorites]


I give you Davison, Michigan: "City of Flags".

Note mailbox to drop off your old flag to be burned.
posted by clavdivs at 11:38 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


Can't fly my, can't fly my, no you can't fly my orca face.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:48 AM on August 13 [3 favorites]


that TED talk was outstanding.
posted by rude.boy at 11:53 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


I'm sure accomplished designers will have Thoughts, but I've always had a nostalgic fondness for Oakland's Flag. It reminds me of one of those summer camp t-shirts. Once you notice it, that tree motif can come up kind of a lot on city stuff without looking like they're lazily just putting the flag on things.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 12:17 PM on August 13 [2 favorites]


I had to google Oakland's flag because I thought maybe you had linked one that had just been xerox'd and re-xerox'd from a faded copy and lost definition over time. Looks like that's the actual intended design though. It does half an old camp t-shirt feel to it. The tree is almost abstract. I like it!
posted by GoblinHoney at 1:03 PM on August 13


Provo, Utah's old flag was basically the worst Word Art generated flag. It got a bunch of flak and wound up being updated and became so generic as to be usable for basically any town in the Mountain West.
posted by msbutah at 1:21 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


Wow, Provo's flag is something else. I now feel a compulsion to find and buy one.
posted by hishtafel at 1:33 PM on August 13


I have posted it here before.

Nothing is awful as the hot mess that is the Tampa, Florida Flag

Although I live in Orlando, which had the most quintessentially 80's flags. As part of the recent wave of awful flag redesigns, Orlando has something better.
posted by Badgermann at 2:18 PM on August 13 [3 favorites]


Fun fact: While South Carolina's palmetto tree and moon is one of the most iconic and recognizable state flags, there is actually no official design for the flag and what you get will look different depending on which supplier you buy a flag from.

Legislators attempted to codify one specific design for the flag last year but the effort failed.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:09 PM on August 13


The emerald isthmus flag looks like a louder version of Madison, WI's.
posted by esker at 7:11 PM on August 13


I'm still suspicious of the winner. There's no way people in Seattle voted for something with that much color.
posted by bonje at 8:34 PM on August 13


They're colors that look like a Sounders or Seahawks jersey, which are the only colorful apparel allowed in downtown Seattle.
posted by mbrubeck at 10:06 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


I sort of like the current flag, although I'd strike the words.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:00 PM on August 13


Yeah the orca flag is cute but it reeks of that one time Hamilton, Ohio tried to rebrand itself as Hamilton!, Ohio.

The three indicators of dire branding are the name of the city/company rendered in cursive, the underline, and the exclamation point. If all three are in play, the place is doomed.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:56 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of this adorably pointless Twitter thread by CBC municipal reporter Justin McElroy ranking every municipal flag in British Columbia.
posted by lookoutbelow at 12:10 AM on August 14


all of the "good" ones are bad imo? (except the orca one obviously.) the lack of creativity and originality is like, idk, pretty sad. (speaking not just as a snob but a designer (and someone who loves seattle))
posted by LeviQayin at 4:04 AM on August 14


I quite like #7, but it almost looks like a seasonal thing that would be on every lamppost for a festival or something than an "official" flag. In fact, that's how I feel about several of these.
posted by ctmf at 2:13 PM on August 14


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