After we reported that Seattle’s flag is considered by design experts to be… let’s say, not great, we heard from many readers about why you agree or disagree, and what you think the flag ought to look like instead.
We featured one graphic designer’s reimagined flag in last week’s story. But we know a lot of you are creative. So: Send us your ideas! We’ll publish a handful of submissions and let readers weigh in on their favorites.
We of course have no authority to designate a new city flag — this is just for fun — but a spokesperson for Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan did say she’s open to a redesign. “The most beautiful city in America should have the most beautiful, well-designed city flag in America,” the response from the mayor’s office went — and it wouldn’t hurt to beat Portland, whose flag was deemed seventh-best in the nation compared to Seattle’s rank of 30th.
As you design, remember the North American Vexillological Association (NAVA)’s five key design rules for flags:
- Keep it simple. The flag should be so simple that a child can draw it from memory.
- Use meaningful symbolism. The flag’s images, colors or patterns should relate to what it symbolizes.
- Use two or three basic colors. Limit the number of colors on the flag to three that contrast well and come from the standard color set.
- No lettering or seals. Never use writing of any kind or an organization’s seals.
- Be distinctive or be related. Avoid duplicating other flags, but use similarities to show connections.
These principles inform one Portland-based expert’s critique of Seattle’s existing flag: It’s too complex and it shouldn’t have lettering, says Ted Kaye, a NAVA member, the compiler of “Good Flag, Bad Flag” and an unapologetic vexillonnaire. Kaye would like to see poorly designed municipal flags redesigned and replaced across the country.
Seattle’s current flag was adopted in 1990 by a unanimous City Council as the city was hosting the Goodwill Games. Designed by a friend of the City Council president at the time, the turquoise-and-white flag features currents flowing around the city’s seal — a profile of Chief Sealth — and the words “City of Goodwill” and “Seattle.”
Though no flag-design experts mentioned this, several readers told us it resembled the city seal swirling down a drain. And the presence of the seal itself breaks Flag Rule 4, above.
But not everyone favors a reboot.
Seattle historian Fred Poyner IV wrote in an email that it’s important for the flag’s central element to be Suquamish and Duwamish Tribal Chief Sealth. The profile of the chief was developed as an official city seal in the 1930s by James Wehn, one of the city’s early sculptors and the creator of the bronze statue of Chief Sealth that’s stood at an intersection near present-day Seattle Center since 1913.
That emblem is “a lasting tribute to the Suquamish chief and local indigenous people,” wrote Poyner, who included Wehn in his 2017 book about the city’s early sculptors. “The portrait of Chief Seattle has historically represented the city of Seattle for the past 83 years. It honors the identity of those who were here before the Denny party settled in Alki in 1851, and offers a direct tie to the name of Seattle itself in recognition of the Suquamish and Duwamish tribal leader identity.”
So, perhaps the chief should stay on the flag.
But maybe we can get rid of the words?
We’d love to hear what you think and see your ideas for what Seattle’s flag should look like. Email them to email@example.com.