There’s been a lot of thinking about flag design lately: What are the elements of a good flag? What’s wrong with bad flags? How great a really great flag can be, and how sad and useless a bad flag is.
Much of the current thinking about flag design traces back to celebrity audio person and design aficionado Roman Mars, who recently introduced us to the very geeky subculture of vexillology (the study of the history, symbolism, and usage of flags) in a very geeky episode of his 99% Invisible podcast. You can check it out here.
The key lesson from Roman’s crash-course in Vexillology 101 is that good flag design follows five basic rules:
1. Keep it simple
2. Use meaningful symbolism
3. Use two to three basic colors
4. No lettering or seals of any kind
5. Be distinctive
That kicked off a national conversation about flag design; a conversation that grew even more urgent when Roman Mars was invited to give a TED Talk on the subject:
The crux of his TED Talk was that the flags of American cities are generally rather terrible, and San Francisco is a clear case in point. Very few people are familiar with San Francisco’s flag, because San Francisco’s flag is a hot steaming mess that breaks all the rules of vexillological good taste. It looks like this:
In the spirit of civic improvement, Roman Mars has kicked off a new effort to redesign San Francisco’s flag. But in the meantime, that got your Bernalwood editor thinking: What about a flag for Bernal Heights? Don’t we deserve a flag too?
Of course we do.
So after internalizing the design rules recommended by vexillologists, I took the liberty of developing a flag for Bernal Heights. I hope you might entertain the idea of rallying around it. Fellow citizens, I propose that all Bernalese should live in peace under this banner, the (Proposed) Great Flag of the Dominion of Bernal Heights:
Rather sporty, eh? Dynamic! Bold! Distinctive! Let’s walk through its symbolism:
- The diagonal fields of green and yellow represent the two annual phases of Bernal Hill: green (winter wet) and golden yellow (summer dry).
- The four sides of the red border represent the four roads that define the boundaries of our Bernal territory: I-280, San Jose Avenue, Cesar Chavez Boulevard, and US 101.
- The star at the center is of course Bernal Hill, shown as a compass rose to represent the 360-degree views of San Francisco visible from the summit. The red color symbolizes both the beloved chert which stabilizes us, and the long tradition of social activism which is an important part of our neighborhood history.
That’s my proposal. I think it’s not too shabby, at least as a first stab at a flag for Bernal Heights. Plus, it would do the trick if you wanted to quietly represent Bernal in your workplace or favorite coffee shop:
This design travels well too. No matter where you go, or whatever distant lands you conquer, you can take your Bernal Heights pride with you:
That said, there are some other designs to consider. Bernalwood’s Cub Reporter rose to the challenge, beginning with some small-scale drawings (which are recommended as a starting place to simulate the view of a flag from a distance):
Bernalwood’s Cub Reporter developed two designs. The first is a simplified view of Bernal Hill and Sutrito Tower, with tiny houses nestled along the slopes:
Her second concept is more bold. It’s a colorful interpretation of a perspective she loves; the view looking toward the sunset as you stroll west along the north side of Bernal Heights Boulevard toward Folsom in the evening:
Always game for a goofy graphic design problem, Burrito Justice, rebel spokesblogger for the La Lenguan separatists, also rallied to embrace the Bernal flag design challenge. Picking up on some of the themes in my design, he came up with a clever interactive concept:
The symbolic logic? Burrito Justice explains:
Green hill, yellow hill, chert background… You turn the flag over depending on the season.
Nice! To bring some further innovation to the idea, Burrito Justice then proposed the world’s first animated GIF flag:
Burrito Justice calls it “a flag for all seasons.”
Your Bernalwood editor called it “hard to sew.”
Burrito Justice explained, “Yeah but imagine the sales, people would need a new one every two weeks!” (Which is actually rather diabolical and brilliant.)
But of course, he couldn’t stop there. Next, Burrito Justice created a few more versions of his flag to celebrate Bernal’s most iconic residents:
Bet hey, maybe you have a better idea for a Bernal flag?
If so, send it to us here at the Bernalwood Office of Vexillological Research or drop it in the comments, and we’ll share any additional ideas for Bernal Heights flags with the Citizens of Bernalwood soon.
IMAGES: Bernalwood Office of Vexillological Research