Arkansas’ flag is another combo platter of problems and problematic.

Let’s start with the problematic: the racist legacy. Designer Willie Hocker was kinda clever. She turned the Confederate battle flag into a flag that wasn’t the Confederate battle flag, but still looked like the Confederate battle flag, by morphing the starry X inside-out, into a diamond shape. Clever. Racist, but still clever.

There’s also the set of four stars, which refer to the national empires that the territory has been part of: France, Spain, the U.S., and… the Confederacy.  Hocker’s original design was only three stars… the last one was added in 1923, as a rather obvious hand-job to white supremacists who still had a hard-on for their grandfathers’ treason.

There are also simple design issues with the flag. The word Arkansas in the middle of it (added by a committee) is the most obvious no-no. There’s also all those stars (yet again indicating what order the state was added to the union), and combined with the stars in the middle you have way-the-fuck-too many stars. But these problems are easily solved.


This simpler design actually harkens back to Hocker’s original design, by arranging the three stars back into a row, without the name of the state. The diamond shape was supposed to represent Arkansas’ status as the only diamond-producing state, and that’s fine. Removing the stars from the blue lines fixes both the Confederacy nostalgia and the busy-ness. So we’re left with a flag that leaves much of the old design intact, but strips out the cruft and the racist dog-whistling. And it’s almost elegant.

New Mexico

Not all state flags suck.

There are a few that literally have nothing wrong with them, and I’m not going to presume to come up with something better. New Mexico’s is one of them: It’s simple, it’s distinctive, it relates to the cultural heritage of the state, it’s easy to read from a distance, and it even translates easily into black and white (which is rare). It also gets bonus points for having the courage not to include blue – the most over-used flag color – at all.

Kudos to Harry Mera of Santa Fe, who came up with it almost a century ago (at a time when “cultural heritage” wasn’t even a buzzword yet).


It was crappy state flags like this that inspired me to start this project. Like several other states, the legislature of Maine wasted valuable paper and a very little bit of their time, by writing a law that declared that their state flag would be their state seal on a field of dark blue.

What makes their choice unforgivable is the fact that they were replacing something better, a flag that almost meets my standards. This was the Maine flag from 1901 to 1909. The blue star represents the North Star. Maine’s official knickname is “The Pine Tree State”, and pines were also used in a various other flags of the New England region. The only thing really wrong with this flag is the tree illustration, which is too fussy and detailed for a flag, and no two people are going to render it the same.

I’ve simplified the rendering of the pine tree to make it more suitable for stitching out of cloth, or for drawing by schoolkids. Yes, it looks like a child’s drawing of a Christmas tree. That’s the whole damn point: to be an iconic pine tree. The 1901 design has some popular support already, appearing on merchandise, and even getting to the point of being brought up in the legislature. I’d rather they modernize and iconify the look a bit first, but either way: Buy some paper, spend a little time, and fix this, Maine.

Prince Edward Island

If there’s any set of flags proportionally worse than American state flags, it’s Canadian provincial flags. I have family in Canada, so I feel I’m obligated to fix that problem too.

The flag of Prince Edward Island is a “what the fuck is going on here?” flag. Especially if you view it on a white background (which I’m doing as I type this… I gave this web site a gray background for this very reason), it doesn’t even make sense. That alternating red/white border on three sides with the red and white backgrounds is just… inscrutable. It doesn’t work, at all.

The interior is then simply a bunch of symbolic “huh?” At the top is an English royal lion (passant and or, on a gules field) a heraldry symbol of the Prince Edward the place is named for), and the main portion is a drawing of little island with three little oak trees (symbolizing the three geographic sections of Prince Edward Island) and a big strong oak tree (Great Britain) protecting them. Way to suck up to the royals, Edwardians.

I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this, but Canada is no longer ruled or protected or mentored in any way by Great Britain. They’ve kept the old queen on, calling her the Queen of Canada, but that’s not at all the same thing. It’s long past time for the Canadian provinces to drop the various emblems of the former British Empire… and also any sucking-up, while we’re at it.

We start by eliminating the damn lion, of course. And since we’re dealing with a troublesome white field, we need to reinforce that red border a bit… top and bottom will do. That leaves us with the baby-oak-trees parable, which at this point is best chucked into the Atlantic. PEI (or at least Canada as a whole) can take care of itself now, so here it is represented by the silhouette of a singular oak leaf, on its own. Does this remind you of any other flags related to Canada in some way?

(Now, if you have really bad eyesight and squint, you might see the outline of Prince Edward Island in the oak leaf. On the other hand, if you have normal vision, you will see nothing of the sort: PEI looks nothing like this – and it looks even less like the island shown in the old flag. Which is good, because flags should not include maps. Yes, Cyprus: I’m looking at you.)


The flag of Indiana isn’t bad… it just needs a little work to overcome two of my least-favorite flag design failures: words and too many stars.

A flag shouldn’t have to rely on the name of the place being included in the design. Even putting it in small print like this smacks of a lack of confidence. No great flag has the name of the place on it. None. Delete it.

And for the love of God, what is it with states making a big deal out of how many states joined the Union before them, by littering their flags with stars to show how many? Indiana even goes to the trouble of having 13 in the outer ring (stolen from Betsy Ross), then 5 more  in the inner semi-circle, plus one slightly bigger star for itself. Too much arcane symbolism is getting wrapped up here. Delete the stars… except the one for Indiana, at the top.

The lines emanating from the torch aren’t horrible, but they’re a representation of light that already has two other symbols of light on it, and I don’t see a torch having such “orderly” light rays coming from it. So take them out, and adjust the remaining elements. Unify and simplify that torch flame. Enlarge the star that represents Indiana: be proud of yourself. And if this simpler design reminds you a little of the letter “I”… that’s just your Imagination.