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.


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.


Maryland’s old flag is painful to look at. Somehow, it ranked fourth (meaning “good”) in the North American Vexillological Association’s survey of state flags! Those people have got to be out of their minds. I assume they gave it credit for daring to be ugly, or for engaging in some kind of perverse vexillo-illogical juxtaposition.

One of my pet peeves is when someone takes a state seal or crest and slaps it in the middle of a piece of cloth, and calls it a flag. This is essentially the same thing… they’re just filling the whole flag with the kind of design you’d get in some nobleperson’s coat of arms. Note: coats of arms are some of the most horrible graphic designs ever, other than 1960s concert posters.

The Maryland flag is two fundamentally incompatible designs put together, and their incongruity is accentuated by repeating each of them. You’ll hear me bitch over and over on this site about stuffing a whole flag into one corner of a flag, and these idiots stuffed an entire flag into all four corners!

And to make matters worse, one of those quarters is itself divided… into quarters! Utterly insane. I grieve for any Maryland schoolchildren who have to try to draw this flag for civics assignments or whatever.

My first attempt to fix this mess got rid of the repetition, and overlapped the patterns and colors in a way that… sort of works, in a post-modern kind of way. Still a bit anxiety-inducing, but better. An artistic schoolkid could remember this, maybe.

But I’m trying to fix not just bad flag design. I’m trying to fix bad flag history. And my research then discovered that those red-and-white quarters were a design included in the state flag back in the 19th century to represent the treasonous faction who wanted to join the Confederacy. Umm… no. We don’t accommodate that.

At the point I realized that, my job became simple: revert to just the yellow and black portion of the design. This was originally taken from the banner of the Calvert family, founders of the colony. Should’ve stuck with it. It’s distinctive without being harmful to the eyes or the soul. This is the one I’d go with.

Alternatively, if you really have a perverse attachment to that clashing set of four colors, you could at least rearrange them into the Calvert pattern instead, and this is my Plan B.