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Help Milwaukee design new city flag

Do you know that Milwaukee has a flag? No? Well, here ya go.

Oh, you already knew Milwaukee had a flag? Did you know it’s being redesigned?

Greater Together, in partnership with AIGA (America’s leading organization of professional designers), Radio Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Flag Initiative is introducing The Greater Together People’s Flag Competition.

The competition is open to everyone, of all ages and professions. Submissions will be accepted until April 14. A panel of experts will judge the designs. The top five will be displayed at City Hall on May 14 between 5 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. The ultimate winner will be announced at a celebration at Radio Milwaukee on Flag Day, June 14.

one of the biggest train wrecks in vexillological history ... the flag of Milwaukee

This initiative was started by Milwaukee designer, Steven Kodis through Greater Together — a creative organization that aims to unite the city through design and collaboration. After the flag was called out as one of the worst in the country by radio personality Roman Mars in a March 2015 TED Talk, creative collabs in the city decided to take a stand.

After showing examples of powerful flag designs from several countries and major U.S. cities, Mars said, “Nothing can prepare you for one of the biggest train wrecks in vexillological history. It’s the flag of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.”

It’s true — the design is a disarray of symbols and colors that are mashed together in a rushed, busy way. (It even has a flag design inside of the flag.) The current look was designed by Alderman Fred Steffan in 1955 after he took submissions from several outlets and combined them into one piece. A redesign process was launched in 2001 but the judge panel decided that none of the submissions were worthy to be flying over Milwaukee.

And here we are, to give it another go!

In Mars’ TED Talk last year, he discussed "vexillology," the study of flags. There are five basic principles of flag design, according to the North American Vexillological Association:

  1. Keep it simple. Flags should be so simple that a child can draw it from memory.
  2. Use meaningful symbolism.
  3. Use two to three basic colors.
  4. Never use writing of any kind.
  5. Be distinctive.

Another rule of thumb is to fit your flag design into a 1 x 1.5 inch rectangle. We usually see flags when they’re flying several feet away from us. Our eyes can only make out distinct parts from a distance. A good flag is a powerful symbol when it’s clear and simple.

“The partnership with Greater Together has encouraged us to use this opportunity to engage the community in a discussion about the city we aspire to be and to create a new flag that is a symbol of our optimism and hope for that future,” said Kodis.