Alberta

Alberta’s flag is Yet Another Shield on a Blue Field. The shield has some redeeming characteristics, I’ll admit, mainly the fact that it’s somewhat simplified art, and not Yet Another Pair of Figures Standing Next to a Coat of Arms. Because the figures are missing.

But looking a little closer at that shield presents an idea. No, not the Cross of Saint George. That’s England. But the rest is something that could be pulled out to use.

It’s  symbolic landscape, depicting the main geographic regions of the province. I’ve further simplified it, showing the the gray mountains, the green hills, and the amber prairie and farmland (combined).

Alaska

If you can’t tell the difference between the current Alaska flag and my version, that’s because there isn’t much.

Alaska is another case of a great flag design: fitting, simple, distinctive. The only issue I have with it is that the stars are kinda small, and get lost at a distance. I made them a little larger, fixed them to make their positions more astronomically correct, and adjusted the overall placement on the skyfield.

South Dakota

South Dakota’s flag has a sad, sad history to it. Sad because it documents the slow degeneration of a cromulent state flag into another vexillological abomination: a seal on sheet, with the name and a tourism slogan. (The fact that the tourism slogan promotes an attraction that wrecked a site sacred to Native Americans, is just shit icing on the shit cake.)

You might not be able to read it at this size, but not only does it say “SOUTH DAKOTA” at the top of the flag, it also says “SOUTH DAKOTA” at the top of the seal. The seal also contains a theocratic motto (fuck that), the year the state was admitted to the Union (no one cares), and a messy, symbolism-littered illustration of life in South Dakota that you can’t even make out at full size.

I’m not gonna tell you that the original flag was a really good one, because it wasn’t. It had the name and the state’s nickname on it, which is kinda bad. Then the idiots in the South Dakota legislature added the state seal. And in 1992 they updated the nickname to push their one big tourist attraction. The result is up there at the top. Feh.

In my initial triage on the current flag, I ripped off the seal and deleted the words, and I was tempted to just go with the yellow sunburst on a blue field as a lucky discovery. But I felt it was missing something, something that said South Dakota (without literally saying “South Dakota”). So I looked to Native American symbology, and added a thunderbird design within the sunburst.

 

Several years ago, celebrated South Dakota artist Dick Termes undertood the same project and overhauled the flag. In 2012 he found a champion for it in legislator Bernie Hunhoff. But the idiots running the capital stonewalled it. Fuck them. It’s a good design, and I’m including it here as an alternate to mine. Termes had a similar idea, but instead of the thunderbird, he added a medicine wheel, another emblem native to the people of the region. He did more with the sunburst, extending the four-points symbology of the medicine wheel. I like it, and South Dakota should take a break from fucking with people’s lives with right-wing legislation, and and adopt it.

P.S. Termes’ gallery should be South Dakota’s biggest tourist attraction. I’ve never been there, but it looks awesome.

Michigan

Michigan’s is the state flag that inspired this whole project, and it’s a textbook example of how to design a flag badly.

It’s a shield-on-a-field, which is three strikes against it right there. In addition, it contains not one, not two, but three mottos in Latin: E Pluribus Unum (“from many, one” – copied from the United States), Tuebor (“I will defend”), and Si Quaeris Peninsulam Amoenam Circumspice (“If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look around you”). It also borrows the eagle from the United States, to go with its native elk and moose, and that’s not even getting to the crest with an explorer by one of the lakes, blah blah, blah.  U-G-L-Y. All it’s missing to make me hate it more is the name of the state spelled out, and a smear of 26 stars somewhere.

I considered doing something with the elk and moose antlers, because both are authentically Michigany things that I like about the state. But this one’s a tear-down, for me to rebuild from the ground up.

What defines Michigan? The Great Lakes are the most obvious thing. The beaches along its extensive shoreline are legendary. The northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula are renowned for their woodlands. And in the winter we get snow that would impress even other northerners. Blue. Yellow. Green. White. In a stylized shape suggesting a peninsula.

And it just so happens that blue-and-yellow and green-and-white are the colors of our two biggest universities, which fight over being known as “the” University of Michigan State. I was careful to give each pair of colors the same amount of real estate, because the infantile rivalry of those people is insufferable.

Maine

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.