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368. State Flag Revisions: Colorado.

For those of you who may have thought the California flag redesign process was borderline indulgent, than Colorado's redesign will be more to your liking. No part twos or threes and probably a lot less talk for that matter. I will say that I believe this redesign may be one of the more controversial, since the current flag is simple and graphic in its own way.

Let's get the history of the flag down first. According to netstate, Andrew Carlisle Johnson designed the current flag and it was adopted by the Colorado General Assembly on June 5, 1911. This happened about 35 years after the territory officially joined the union. (Good luck finding anything at all about Johnson, he could have had a design background or simply have been in the right place at the right time. Heck, he could have been a negro league all-star pitcher, for all I know. I couldn't find a thing.) Anyway, we have to rewind four years prior to this, to see what his design replaced. Or at least a recreation of what it replaced. We'll come back to this later, but note the details in the shield.

1907—1911 Colorado State Flag:

There is scant detail about how the current design came to be. The design itself is fairly simple and easily recalled. The flag's hoist is divided into three equal segments of blue, white and blue representing the clear blue sky and snow-capped mountains. Sitting on top is a large red capital C with a gold counter (empty space) that symbolizes the red earth and warm sun. Sounds pretty simple, however, on two occasions the flag law had to be refined in order to eliminate issues with the colors in 1929 (the red and blue were made to mimic the US flag) and in 1964 to correct issues with the size and placement of the C. 

An early variant of the flag, featuring a centered C:

The Official Colorado State Flag:

One reason why they needed the 1964 revision to the flag law:

I can see some designers out there saying that the current flag is perfect, or maybe just good enough. After all, it's simple, symbolic and easily recognizable, right? For me, although this flag isn't bad per se, it does lack any purpose and real representation of what Colorado is. Not only is it boring, it lacks soul and I don't think anyone—well, any normal person outside of Colorado—could correctly answer with 100% certainty that this flag wasn't for Connecticut or Chicago or Czechoslovakia  for that matter. Simplicity is usually a good thing, but it's not everything. The current colors also do nothing to help the flag do a flag's job. We need something more modern here as well. 

The answer comes from the original flag's crest, and pretty much everything else that comes from Colorado; which is remembered for one main thing: gorgeous, huge, epic, purple, mountains that you can't find anywhere else in the states. 

This direction does have its issues. Mountains in Colorado are well-worn territory. You might even say they are cliche, but some things are cliche for a good reason and I think the Colorado Mountains are one of them. They're an easily rendered, somewhat unique, powerful symbol for the state that will separate their flags from the flags of the 49 sister states. A purpose I'd argue trumps all others. But lest anyone out there say that I don't really understand the overuse of mountains, check out this gallery resulting from just a few minutes searching online.

The mountain of mountain logos of Colorado:

Normally, I'd use this kind of argument against using an element in a logo or design. (And I did just that a few flags ago in reference to saguaros and kokopelli's in Arizona.) This time, I feel like the references only reinforce how much mountains have come to represent the state and keep in mind that the flag doesn't compete with these identities, only with that of the other states and cities. I'm feeling pretty good that this is the direction to go, especially if we can argue that we're actually taking an element out of the 'real' original flag of 1907. Which we will be doing by using the mountains. 

To get a better sense of what the mountains mean to Colorado as a symbol, we need look no further than the song, America The Beautiful, penned by Katherine Lee Bates. The song was written based on her experience visiting Pikes Peak during a 1893 teaching stint at Colorado College. In fact, the song was originally titled, Pikes Peak, then America before getting its current title. Now, there's a little trivia for you.

We don't have to deduce much further to realize that the purple mountain majesties Bates described were none other than the Colorado portion of the Rocky Mountains, and it's even more clear after reading her journal entry about her Pikes Peak trip. "One day some of the other teachers and I decided to go on a trip to 14,000-foot Pikes Peak. We hired a prairie wagon. Near the top we had to leave the wagon and go the rest of the way on mules. I was very tired. But when I saw the view, I felt great joy. All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse." This has to be the basis for the flag of Colorado, am I wrong? 

Commemoration plaque atop Pike Peak:

So, we're going to use this as the basis for our new Colorado state flag. Actually, it's going to BE the flag. I was inspired by a alternate logo for the Denver Nuggets that had a simple mountain with a highlight and shadow side; and I thought I could take that idea and build an entire design out of it. The color decision was already made by Mrs Bates as described above. The only other decision we had to make dealt with the proportions. In the end, I think we've found a few nice solutions for Colorado. Something they can own. But I thought I would try something different with this state's process. I have posted four versions—all using the same basic elements and derivative of the thinking and research found in this article—and want you to vote on the one you like the best. Simply go to my Facebook page and vote for your favorite, it's that easy. The winner will be the 2012 Colorado Flag or at least help influence my decision.


(And not that you're asking but I'd also recommend to Colorado that they change their license plates to purple too, because really Vermont owns the green mountain thing. Branding works, folks.)


The 2012 Colorado State Flag options:  VOTE HERE.

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Some other tidbits:

The red C stands for the name of the state—recalling the Spanish word colorado (“red”), the origin of the name—and it also stands for the state flower (columbine) and the state nickname (“Centennial State”). The latter was chosen because Colorado became a state in 1876, when the country was celebrating the centennial of its independence.

The red, white, and blue of the U.S. flag appear in the Colorado flag, as do the blue, yellow, and white of the columbine. The area’s extensive deposits of gold and silver, which brought many early settlers to the territory and which still are actively mined, are reflected in the yellow and white of the flag.

Also, the original Colorado Rockies NHL hockey franchise (1976-1981) had a logo that mimicked the flag and contained in a stylized mountain triangle seen here:
January 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark Lilley
I like the old hockey kits, pretty cool. And thanks for the added info, Mark. All good stuff.
January 2, 2012 | Registered Commenterjj
I love this project in total. My biggest issue with the Colorado design is the sheer number of purples on the flag. Could use some simplification or different colors in place of some of the purple... to me, at least.
January 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJordan
Thanks, Jordan for both the nod and your feedback. The whole reason I'm doing this publicly is to involve others and generate discussion about these flags (And of course to design something better than what they have.) But I hear ya. I tried some other colors in the mix, and some worked, but I kept going back to this monochromatic style, wanting to focus in on the idea of purple majesties from the song. Any other color, though working on some level, felt like it took away something too.

But, heck, it's a valid comment and who knows, I might swing back around and tweak a few of them once they're all said and done. I do them all pretty quickly b/c I have a real job, so there's always the likelihood that I mess up. Ha.

Some people are afraid to put stuff out there, but I actually like it, and the feedback from folks like yourselves. Keep 'em coming, both positive and negative — it's cool.

January 3, 2012 | Registered Commenterjj
I'm a big fan of the redesign, though I will always love our current flag.

My only qualm is that I wish the mountain design was based, even loosely, upon an actual Colorado peak. The Maroon Bells, though not particularly graphically iconic, are the most photographed place in the U.S.

I could also do without the small breaks along the bottom. They are too insignificant to offer any real base to the flag that isn't already provided by the grandeur of the main peak.
January 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRussell
Appreciate you stopping by, Russell. I looked at The Maroon Bells, and kinda-sorta took one side from them, but wanted the flag to be more symmetrical; but I hear you...authenticity goes a long way.

I also like that you love your current flag. Really, the problem flags are just starting to come up; those blue fields with state seals on them. Those are the real problem flags.

January 5, 2012 | Registered Commenterjj
I agree, the 4th flag is probably the best design out all of them. Are you going to make a revision of the Colorado standard license plate? It's been out since 2000, and is in need of a make over.
February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHES

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