United States

I’m gonna catch holy hell for doing this one, so I might as well get it over with.

The U.S. flag is a mess. It really is. It follows a few of the principles of good flag design, such as using just a few colors, and being distinctive (before others started copying it). But it drops the ball in a big way with simplicity.

Betsy Ross was pushing it by including a stripe for each and every one of the 13 colonies that were joining to form the union. Also including 13 stars was redundantly gilding the lily, though at least she found a nice pattern for them, so it’s identifiable as a thing in itself – a circle – not just a bunch of stars.

Then they started adding states. At first they not only added a new star for each one, but also a new stripe. They realized pretty quickly that they were making an already bad design worse, and reverted to the bad design, with 13 stripes. But they Kept! Adding! Stars! 13 was already too many, and now we’re stuck with 50 of the damn things. (And more, once we finally do the right thing and give statehood to D.C. and Puerto Rico.) Do you have any idea how many schoolkids have been reduced to tears, trying to figure out how to draw 50 fucking stars on their U.S. flag? It’s shameful.

The flag of Texas takes the U.S. flag and minimalizes the hell out of it: one star, one red stripe, one white stripe. I like that, but it goes farther than necessary. A “United States” flag needs to have stripes: plural. It just doesn’t need thirt-fucking-teen of them.

Instead of unlucky 13 stripes, lucky 7 stripes is enough. It doesn’t symbolize anything in particular, but that’s OK because it doesn’t have to. An odd number is good for vertical symmetry, which is nice to have in a design. Having an area of white on the edge of a flag is a bit of a problem if you don’t have a gray background on your web site, after all. (Which is where Texas screwed up. Russia too.)

Ross’ arrangement of the original 13 stars was a nice touch… there’s a reason that flag gets hauled out from time to time. So I’ve revived the circle, now as… a circle. With a big star in the middle, and that does symbolize something: it’s 1 country now, not 50-something states.

There are already 51-star and 52-star designs that have been figured out, for when/if we make states out of our two largest territories. But rather than adopting those, it would make more sense to take advantage of the opportunity to adopt a new flag that will never be obsolete.

Georgia

The history of the flags of Georgia is a long history of horrible, racist, and sometimes horrible and racist flags. Instead of just showing you the latest flag and my replacement, I think it’s instructive to look back at the whole history of Georgia’s flags. If nothing else, it’ll show you how little I had to work with that could be salvaged.

The state’s original flag was your standard American abomination: the state seal on a field of blue. Even in its fairly simple form, it’s an illustration of a person and several words, in a fussy mess that looks like every other crappy state flag. The fact that it was hastily created to fill the need for a state flag in the South’s war of treason against the United States just makes it worse.

Fifteen years after losing that war, the state adopted a proper flag. It’s not technically a bad design… purely as flag designs go. But it’s a little derivative, and it was adopted as a very deliberate homage to the flag of a certain federation of which Georgia was a founding member.

No, not the United States. The Confederate States. For comparison, here is the official flag of the CSA, which was nicknamed “The Stars and Bars”. You’d probably guess by now that I don’t care for the circle of stars, which is too cluttered, but otherwise it isn’t a horrible design… except that it fails the most fundamental purpose of a flag, which was to be easily recognized on the battlefield. This dumb-as-fuck design looked too much like the flag of the country they were in treason against especially in battle, which literally confused people who were trying to kill each other, and that’s why this flag never became popular, even among racists. Instead, racists fondly remember the battle flag. You know that one.

In 1902, Georgia combined their Confederacy-wannabe flag with their regiment-of-the-Confederate-army flag, by stuffing their state seal into the smaller field of blue. I’m not gonna show that one, because you can figure it out in your head. A few years later, they added the word “GEORGIA” and replaced the seal with… a worse version of the seal. I’m not gonna show that one, because I am not a cruel person. In 1920 they redrew the seal as a white circle with blue lines, and the date 1776 to pretend that they’d forgotten about 1861 and now considered themselves part of the United States.

In the 1956, the legislature of Georgia realized that they were entering modern times, so they adopted a new flag without all that baggage of the past, one that represented the future…. oh, who am I kidding? They pulled down their pants and squeezed out a turd to show their contempt for the present and the future, inserted their heads into the vacancy, and replaced the bars that were too much like the stripes of the United States flag, with the fucking Battle Flag of the Confederacy, to show just how racist the white people of Georgia still were. P.S. it’s also an ugly design, shoving two incompatible flags together.

This lasted until 2001. Incredible.

With the 21st century underway, there was considerable pressure for Georgia to give up on the fucking Confederacy and join the 20th century. The governor, bless his heart, proposed and rammed thru a replacement. Which was god-awful in oh so many ways.

The state seal was the focus again. But with the 13 stars representing the original colonies Confederate states around it. And a dumb-as-fuck, ugly-as-shit banner showing previous flags flown over Georgia. The original Betsy Ross flag. The Confederate regimental flag. The neo-Confederate seal flag. The neo-Confederate battle flag. And the U.S. flag. And “IN GOD WE TRUST” at the bottom, just to make sure that people also understood that freedom of religion is a lie. This is the flag that earned Georgia the position of 72nd out of 72 in the North American Vexillological Assocation’s survey of U.S./Canadian flags. It’s that fucking bad.

Hint: you can’t fix the problem of having Confederate symbols on the flag by making them smaller, in a design that looks absofuckinglutely horrible.

The “good” news is that this flag was so bad that the state legislature was prompted to replace it. Which could have been a happy ending. But they replaced it with this. That’s right: the actually went back to the Confederate States of America flag design, this time with the state seal and the stars honoring the 13 Confederate states.

Fuck that shit. Fuck all of that shit. I can’t even.

Georgia’s new flag doesn’t get to use the colors of the Confederate flags. Too many feeble attempts to pass them off as U.S. colors. Instead it gets the 1879 flag redone in the colors of Georgia’s most famous crop: peaches. Still leaves a sour taste in my mouth, but it’s at least a cromulent flag.

Missouri

Sometimes there’s a good design hidden in a bad one.

Missouri’s flag is one of the many with a state seal crapped in the middle of it. The seal has an array of 24 stars at the top, to indicate that Missouri was the 24th state. But they circled the seal with another 24 stars, to indicate that Missouri was the 24th state. At least it isn’t on a plain field of blue, like most of the seal-on-a-sheet state flags.

The seal includes the motto “united we stand, divided we fall” which is fucking ironic, because one of the design elements of the seal is a belt buckle, which symbolizes the state joining the Union… but still being able to unbuckle (i.e. secede and join a racist slave-holding confederacy… which to be fair, it did not… but they thought about it).

The seal also features two bears, which a least are native to part of the state. No, wait, there’s a third bear in silhouette inside the crest the bears are holding. Give me a fucking… wait a minute.

If you magnify that crest inside the seal, there are a couple neat design elements: a bear on a red background (it’s supposed to represent strength and bravery), and a crescent moon on a blue background (representing the newness and potential of the state, which is obsolete but a nice idea).

I’ve extracted the crescent and bear, and made them the focus of the design, incorporating them into the red/white/blue stripes of the existing Missouri flag. These stripes are flipped from the old flag, to match the combinations from the crest, which is important because it keeps the crescent against a blue sky.

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!

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.