North Dakota

Simplify.

North Dakota’s flag is yet another crappy flag, created by just slapping emblems on a blue background and calling it a flag. In this case, they spelled out the name of the state (sigh), added a direct copy of the eagle from the U.S. seal, even down to the “E Pluribus Unum” motto (SIGH), and threw in thirteen stars, because… Betsy Ross (SIGH)! There almost nothing remotely original or distinctive about it.

Almost.

The solution was… simple. Remove the name. Remove the U.S. Seal and Motto. Remove all but one of the stars, and enlarge it. And enlarge the halo/crown to match. There ya go!

Colorado

Colorado’s flag is pretty good: a fairly classical stripes-of-color design with a central thingy to give it some individual character… and that thingy isn’t their damn state seal.

I almost left it alone, except for one thing. That central thingy is a C for Colorado. That violates one of my rules, which is that it’s OK for flags, to be red, but flags shouldn’t be read.

But since it’s otherwise a fairly good design, I left it alone and merely modified the central thingy into something that might not be a C, depending on how you look at it. I’m not sure what else it would be (hint: it’s Pac-Man), but that’s OK, because flags can – and should – be abstract.

Minnesota

Blech. Minnesota’s flag is yet another “shield on a field”, and the fact that the blue field is a little lighter than most of the other crappy flags of this kind doesn’t save it. Especially because the seal in the middle is an incredibly bad design, too.

Let’s name the problems: The name of the state is spelled out. It does some inscrutable stuff with the number of stars, themselves in a star pattern. The seal includes three different years… I have no idea what they all represent, and no one else knows or cares either. There’s a motto in there too. And the scene in the middle has so many symbolic bits in it that you can’t read it, even if at full size. (Trust me.) Blech.

Fortunately I don’t have to fix this, because someone else has already done it.

Rev. William Becker and Lee Herold designed and proposed a replacement, which has received some popular support in the state. Wikipedia explains: The star represents “L’etoile du Nord” and Minnesota’s natural wealth, the blue background represents Minnesota’s lakes and rivers, the white represents winter, and the green represents farmland and forests. The waves represent the name Minnesota, a Dakota word which means “sky-tinted waters”. There’s more behind it. This is a good flag, Minnesota: stop spinning your wheels and go for it.

Arkansas

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).