Flag “Flop”

shutterstock_139505972 Who knew that a flag would cause so much discussion? This reminds me a little bit of branding – the more that’s suggested, the more snarky remarks a potential design receives. I suppose that’s why I should be grateful for thick skin.

Here’s the deal… I’d like to see your ideas (don’t worry, I’ll be much nicer about what you produce than what’s been shared with me).

Over the next two weeks (today until June 3), I want you to mail your flag ideas to the City’s Deputy Mayor, Corey Norman, at cnorman@provo.org. He’ll compile your designs and share them with a small group of citizens to come up with a few recommendations. Those that are chosen will then be shared here for your feedback and then sent to council for potential adoption.

These are the criteria (you’ve seen this list before) that your flag must meet if it’s going to get in the running for consideration:

  • It has to be simple. This means a child could draw it.
  • It should be symbolically rich with references to the city.
  • It can’t have more than a few simple colors that contrast well.
  • It can’t have letters or a seal.
  • It needs to be unique and not look like every other flag.
  • The flag can’t be trendy, meaning we need to stay away from things that say, “That was designed in 2014.” I love our city’s logo but that will likely change at some point.

So put your pencil to paper and get us what you think would be a good flag that can be around for years to come.

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  1. MWJ

    Thanks for listening and for being willing to accept our input.

    1. Kristen

      I second this.

    2. Johnny York

      Wow – someone that is willing to listen! Awesome!

  2. Cassidy

    Thank you so much for listening!! I think it’s a great idea to ask the citizens of Provo!!

  3. NMB

    And there was much rejoicing! Now I’m getting my crayons out to come up with a design 🙂

  4. Pam Alvarez

    It is a nod to your leadership that you would even show the two flags to get public input. It is even more commendable that you would scrap them based on that opinion. Hat’s off to you. BTW, I moved here kicking and screaming a couple of years ago. Boy, was I wrong.

    1. John

      Pam – Thanks for the compliment. It can be hard to put an idea out there and then have it “red penciled” to death. We won’t please everyone but it will be fun to see what others sketch up.


  5. Matt

    I don’t like the skull in the middle. Also, black?

    Just kidding 🙂

    Thank you for being a great mayor!

  6. I appreciate your ability to hear feedback and rethink this design. I’m not sure I don’t understand why there are so many rules about what is an acceptable suggestion for the flag. It seems that as long as the flag is impactful, beautiful, and symbolic of our city, it should be able to be viewed as a possibility. I think we’d all like more to choose from than generic graphic design.

    1. *strike the “don’t” in that statement 🙂

    1. John

      Darryl – Several folks have come up with variations of the current logo. I’m planning on sharing some of them when we feel as if there’s enough to put out there.


  7. BJSProvo

    I’m afraid the general populous will over complicate things.

    D.C. and Chicago have similar flags that are based on some stars, a couple stripes and a healthy dose of white space. The fact that they finished 1 and 2 in the North American Vexillological Association map survey suggests that’s a winning combination of elements.

    I think you incorporate something very generally based on the following: Ft. Utah, River, Lake, Mountain, Sky, Symbolic stars or other token and move on. Simplicity rules the day!

    1. Alan

      Totally agree. Everyone wants a flag that looks cool, but what looks cool today will not look cool in five years. I’m originally from Chicago and Chicagoans love their flag (and even know the symbolism). You see it everywhere in Chicago and its a symbol of civic pride. Our new flag can be as good as Chicago’s and DC’s. . . if we keep it simple.

    1. Jennifer

      I like this one a lot!

    2. KBA

      I like this one too!

    3. Pam Alvarez

      Now we’re talkin’!

    4. Sterling

      That looks great!

  8. Why not use a representation of the state logo

  9. Dave

    My first reaction to the two presented flags was not good. But it was helpful to read your post and your previous post about the old flag. Then I looked at the Flag Survey linked to in your previous post. I highly recommend everyone look at it. http://www.nava.org/content/2004-american-city-flags-survey . Don’t just go by what was highly ranked, cause what do vexillologists know about flags, but scroll through and get a feel for what other cities have done, and what you like and what you don’t like. After a while I better understood what a flag could say about a city, and mostly agreed with the rankings. I sure appreciated the two proposed flags more after I had educated myself a little about the subject.

    1. Chris Padilla

      I agree with this comment. In the link you mention. I do like how Colorado and Denver have coordinated the color schemes with simple designs. Simple is good. If you can tie history into the color scheme or images.

  10. Jessica

    Great idea. I’d be okay with one similar to the submitted options, but with more mountain points so it is clear to everyone that symbol represents the mountains (and the surrounding colors are more clearly the lake and sky).

  11. Dave

    Years ago I attended a conference in downtown Chicago. I often saw three flags flying over building entrances. I could identify the US flag, and “Illinois” was written on the state flag, but I had to ask someone what the third flag represented. I thought it was strange that a city would have its own flag. But the idea grew on me over the course of the week long conference, as did the simple yet symbolic design, as I continued to see the flag flying over city buildings. Personally I like the direction of the first two flag designs.

  12. Jamie

    So, here’s my thought regarding Provo FlagGate 2014. There are three inevitable outcomes of a community discussion on flag design: 1. There will not be consensus; people will be opinionated on aesthetics and say any chosen flag looks weird and doesn’t represent them. 2. Once we have the flag, everyone will forget about it. Because no one actually spends time thinking about city flags. 3. There is no timeless. In a decade or two, a new group will want to make a new, better Provo flag. Vexillologists may set ideal standards, but look at how just about every city flag for every major city in America breaks them: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flags_of_cities_of_the_United_States

    So, Provo will request submissions, a design will be chosen, and no one will ever speak of it again. The resulting flag will be fine. No big deal.

    OR…we could think outside the box a little. What if we chose a flag that was totally different? What if we thought of a different PURPOSE for the flag? I vote we use the flag to rally people and garner media attention around a single, cool aspect of Provo.

    For example (and it doesn’t have to be this, but something like it): imagine a flag with a bright blue background (matching the color in the city logo) with just the stenciled black and white outline of a boom box on it.

    Is that pretty weird and unlike what other cities are doing? Yes. Will all of the above consequences also apply (people saying it doesn’t represent them / aesthetic disagreement / it not being timeless?) Absolutely. But, could you also imagine this happening?:

    – Once we start putting them up, Provo gets media attention for having a different flag. Why is Provo’s flag different than other bland city flags that no one remembers? Every other city in the mountain west tries to have mountains on their flag. Just what is happening in Provo that makes it so unique?

    – The flag is kind of cool. People actually remember it. It starts showing up on shirts sold downtown, etc. Maybe someone makes a product (a soda? a hat?) and affixes a little icon of the flag with a Made in Provo tag. The weird flag starts inspiring local pride.

    – Just about every single time a major news outlet does a story about Provo and its rankings, the flag comes up. It’s easy story bait. The flag demonstrates how different the city is. Why is it a boom box? Because Provo is a cultural hub. National bands are coming out of Velour and Muse; the family-friendly rooftop concerts are a hit. There are things to do downtown. The flag starts steering stories. This is especially helpful for national reporters being asked to do stories on Provo cold – without background info. “Provo is Booming”…oh man, these stories write themselves.

    In this scenario, everyone is still sort of displeased. But, now the flag has a purpose and is working for us. I know it’s a weird idea and we’re not going to do it. But, I’m sharing it anyway.

  13. guest

    Your vexillologists’ recommendations have surely been vexing!

    What’s wrong with using the current Provo logo on the flag as well? If it needs to be simplified, then do so, but keep as much detail as possible:

    1. Multiple mountain peaks look more like our belovedly rugged Wasatch than that lousy triangle. They symbolize the unmovable steadfastness of the principles we base our Provo life on.

    2. The curved edge of the waters bring to mind the fresh, swift rapids of Provo River rather than the flat, stagnant line of the other proposed flags. This symbolizes the fresh energy of the active lifestyle we live in Provo.

    3. The brilliant shine of the sun over the Wasatch mountains is something we experience (nearly) every day rather than the 3 stars reminiscent of a backwards dictatorship of some foreign country. The sunrise symbolizes the promise of a new day, as well as Provo shining its bright light as we rise in prominence nationally and worldwide.

    Mayor Curtis, the right choice should be obvious. You’ve already created the perfect idea, and it’s been staring you in the face ever since.

  14. dougj

    Use the logo and change the flag when the logo changes. The flag doesn’t have to be anymore timeless than the logo. We’re not a nation, after all. Simple as that.

    The logo could easily be redrawn to make it rectangle while keeping the image proportional. It would be a lovely flag, tie in with what we already see in the logo and be easily identifiable with Provo. Children could draw it, it has three colors, it shows everything we want to depict in a flag (sky, mountains, water).

    My wife and I both prefer the log without surrounding, colored bars. Just use the logo and redraw it so it covers the entire flag.

  15. Noah

    I heard an anecdote about making coffee, that if you get 10 groups of 10 and ask them each to make “the perfect cup of coffee” they will all come up with different, good cups of coffee. Then if all 100 people got together and tried again, they would come up with a mediocre cup of coffee, not as good as any of the cups made by the smaller groups. I’m glad you trust the opinions of the people of provo, but all of us working on this problem will not make it better. Like Jamie said, there is never one thing that will make everyone happy.

    We all have to admit the two designs were about a million times better than the old flag.

  16. Matt

    I’m reminded of something programmers (and probably others) call “Bike shedding.” On complex issues, people assume the people working on it know what they’re doing. But on “simple” issues, like painting a bike shed, there is an unending supply of opinions.

    Here’s more:

  17. Chase

    Can we just use that pirate flag?

  18. Ah, Mayor Curtis – it seems you’ve managed to Marissa Mayer the Provo flag! Mayer (CEO of Yahoo) spirited away a small design team one weekend and, over the course of few late nights, wrought out the new international Yahoo logo. Though they meant well, the change was met with disdain from the public. The new Yahoo logo (like the flags you proposed) was respectable enough in their execution…so what went wrong?

    The problem is “why.” In the Yahoo case, it was clear to everyone the design was in need of a refresh. The new logo, however, seemed to folks to have been born out of ambiguous and potentially irrelevant criteria – a problem the proposed flag designs are also apparently suffering from!

    Of all of Provo’s unique and iconic attractions, why choose a ubiquitous depiction of river, mountain, sky, and stars? Why were those specific colors chosen to represent Provo’s landscape and culture? And when establishing criteria to create a new flag for Provo, why use a generic list of vexillology principles?

    The problem here is that you are not just designing a flag, you’re contributing to the design of the city. The last five or so years have seen a handful of cities around the world create strong, cohesive brands for themselves. How does the new flag of Provo relate to the brand of our city? How does it compare to other city brands we might aspire to emulate?

    Having a better flag for the sake of having a better flag isn’t enough – it needs to fit into a greater city aesthetic, with thought given to location, culture, and time. It’s a challenge, but also a fantastic opportunity for community input and expanding on the vision for the future of Provo.

    Scott Capener, local graphic designer

    1. KBA

      I don’t like the two samples that were provided either, but since you are a local graphic designer, perhaps you could give us a sample of what you think is a better design.

    2. I agree with your thoughts on river, mountain, sky. Every city has a sky. Almost every city in our region has a mountain. Many cities have nearby bodies of water. Why our those the things we need to represent on our flag?

  19. Marie-Luise Smith

    I like the idea about using the new logo on the flag, Why invent something different when time and money was spend to come up with the logo in the first place. I also have the feeling that the desire of complying with the rules of the American Vexillological Assos. is to just get another national ranking. We can use the Logo and have Provo on it.

  20. Don Bugg

    I think it’s misguided to set “so simple a child can draw it” as a rule. How many little children can draw a decent rendering of the United States flag or Britain’s Union Flag? Yet they’re both some of the finest examples of banner design in history.

  21. alan

    stick a block letter Y on one of the first two designs and be done with it.

  22. Tommy

    It occurs to me that if Provo has only 1 “Flag Guy”, then he will be the only one who will be bugged when we don’t follow the rules. I say lets make the tens of thousands of citizens who think the flag rules are absurd happy rather than just the one flag guy.

    Also I know we spent a lot of money branding the city, and judging by how trendy the design and colors are, you are planning to do this pretty regularly. I would suggest just designing a new flag with each city rebrand and let it fall in line with that brand so that when if people are familiar with your flag the branding will have an obvious tie to it, and the other way around too.

    I am glad you listened and didn’t just push one of those flags through. They were just awful, I hope your graphic designers did not think of that, because those designs were just terrible. I would be interested in seeing what your designers have presented, if they have presented anything.

  23. Don Bugg

    Has it occurred to the Mayor’s office that the Vexillological Association is, in the end, just a bunch of people who think their opinion is more important than someone else’s? Yes, they’re learned in the design and history of flags, but their “rules” and the criteria by which the judge and rank flags is really just a reflection of their own subjective judgments. They may not like print on flags, but in some cases it works beautifully, as in the flag of California. They may not like complexity, but some very complicated patterns such as the UK’s flag are excellent national banners. Let’s loosen up a little about these “rules.”

  24. Dan

    The old flag design contains no elements that are recognizably Provo’s. I think that for an arbitrarily invented flag to mean anything to anyone it has to have some elements that one can point to and say “this is recognizably ours,” whether that’s the royal crest or stripes that correspond to colonies or whatever.

    The triangle in the flag is not one bit reminiscent of Provo’s mountains. Similarly for the blue area that’s supposed to be a lake, etc etc.

    I know it’d be too difficult for a child to draw accurately, but I think our eastern horizon (Cascade-Provo ridge) outlined in green and a widening blue squiggle for the Provo River, roughly as one would see the horizon and the river from the air above the lake near the outflow/the airport, would be recognizably ours. One could also consider tossing in the rising sun.

    Some have suggested making the mountain be Timp. While I love Timp, the trouble is that while it may be prominent around here, it is not _our_ mountain. Communities farther north have a stronger claim to it than we do. The Cascade-Provo Peak ridge and its foothills, however, are distinctly ours.

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