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.


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.


Let’s get this piece of crap taken care of right away.

Mississippi’s current flag suffers from a couple of problems. The first is that it’s really two flags in one: a set of stripes, with another flag stuffed into the canton (that special upper-left corner)… that’s simply bad design. The second problem is the fact that the second flag is the KKK’s beloved Confederate Battle Flag… that’s simply bad. Those don’t fly anymore in civilized places, and it’s why Mississippi needs to send this fucking thing into the garbage bin of history where it belongs. We can be better than that.

There have been a couple of replacements proposed in recent years, both aimed at fixing the second problem, and that’s great. They’re both a lot better, and I’d get behind either of them… if I wasn’t sick of flags filled with a bunch of stars that you’re expected to count, just to learn how many states there were in the U.S. after it joined.

Folks, unless you’re Delaware, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the District of Columbia, no one knows or cares what-number state you are. (Yeah, the U.S. Flag has the same problem of too many stars. We’ll get to that later.)

What we need here is a clean break from 1) a bad design and 2) bad history… something with a clean, modern look that residents could look up at with self-respect, and that visitors could look at without stopping the car and turning around out of fear. (Does Mississippi have an airport? Do tourists fly into it? Maybe they would if there wasn’t a racist battle flag greeting them when they deplaned.)

The new Mississippi flag retains the colors of the racist one, and even the motifs of a star, and a blue stripe on a red field. (I was feeling generous toward the nostalgia of Mississippians.) But this flag design turns the blue stripe into something suggesting a river, like the one that gives Mississippi its name, and which is lot better for the state’s image than the state’s history is. (I’m not a fan of initials on flags, but if you want to read this as the letter S as in MiSSiSSippi, that’s OK.)