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.
Why do they even bother? It’s a shield on a field. And an especially bad coat of arms at that, with obscure heraldry and symbolism shoved into every nook and cranny. There’s even a US shield shoved into the middle. Both the US motto, and a fucking state motto: “Forward”. Because “Reverse” hadn’t been invented yet. Who are those two men? No one cares.
Then in the 1980s, because their crappy flag looked like every other crappy shield-on-a-field flag, instead of fixing it, they added the name of the state spelled out in big letters at the top, and presumably the year it joined the union at the bottom. No one cares. At least they didn’t litter it with (guessing) 30 stars to show what order it joined in. Which no one cares about, I might add.
This flag is a reason for people who live in Wisconsin to regret that fact. I was tempted to chuck the whole fucking thing out and start from scratch, but then I noticed something. A germ of an idea that I could salvage.
Down in the lower-right of the state seal is a stacked array of little triangles, representing mineral mining (like little ingots). A couple of those can be rearranged into the icon for fast-forward. So I salvaged the fucking motto: Forward!
Why are the triangles yellow? It’s what Wisconsin is actually known for: cheese wedges.
The background colors were my own idea. I’ve been to Wisconsin a number of times, and I remember that it includes some beautiful woodlands, and it has more Great Lakes shoreline than any state except Michigan. So I symbolized those with green and blue.
This post is at half-mast out of respect for those killed in the recent mass shooting in Nova Scotia. 🙁
The flag of Nova Scotia is trying to explain to people what Nova Scotia means: It’s Latin for New Scotland. To make the point extra clear, they doubled down on it:
- First: the red and yellow shield in the middle is Scotland’s royal coat of arms.
- Second: the background is a reversal of the national flag of Scotland. Instead of a white saltire on a blue field, it’s a blue saltire on a white field. (It isn’t an exact copy: for some reason, Canadian flags are all wider than your typical flags.)
(The Scottish flag is better known as part of the UK’s “Union Jack”, which combines the flags of England, Scotland, and (Northern) Ireland into that blue-white-and-red crisscross mess. It uses a different shade of blue, however.)
As readers of this blog know, I hate shields on flags. So fixing this flag was really, really simple: ditch the overly detailed, clashing-colors coat of arms of a country it isn’t formally connected to… and there you go, New Scotland: you’re done. It’s a simple, elegant design, and if you’re trying to say “we’re a wee bit like Scotland, but no’ actually Scotland”… that’s the way to do it.
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.