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372. State Flag Revisions: Florida.

Here's a state that does not suffer from a lack of visual images, symbols and brand-able content. Florida. Or as it's now known as Flo-rida. For the most part, I have a pretty favorable impression of the state, it having been the location of a few childhood vacations; even though in later years it's been more noteworthy for things like suburban development foreclosures and immigration policies. We're going to put politics aside and really shine a positive light on the state through it's official banner. You know the drill by now, first some history. Then a little perspective. Then the design.

According to (?), when Juan Ponce De Léon landed on Florida's shores in 1513, Spain did not have an official national flag, so Spain's Castle and Lion Flag of the King was used as the flag of the country and is considered Florida's first flag. It would see some 15 more flags flying over at least part of the state. I did not know that Ponce De Léon traveled with Christopher Columbus in 1493. Now, you do. 

Florida's First Flag:

From 1513 and 1763, the territory of Florida was controlled by dynastic (sequential rule of one family, or group) Spanish rule and had several different flags during that time, but the Burgundian Saltire (as in Arkansas) was the most prominent. What happened in 1763 to change this? The end of the Seven Year's War, which was a global conflict for (mostly naval) supremacy, with varying local names. In North America the conflict was also known as the French and Indian War, but it was called lots of other things depending on where you were since the conflict included Prussia, India, Austria amongst other Empires. This war was defined however, by the fierce rivalry between the English and Spanish Empires, and ultimately resulted in England supremacy and victory. The Treaty of Paris (or Treaty of 1763) pretty much gave Florida to England and incidentally saw France giving away almost all of it's North American influence and territories. France 'had' Canada, but traded it for Guadeloupe, which it considered to be more valuable. Interesting. A sugar island in the Caribbean for the entirety of Canada. Time hasn't been kind to this decision, eh? I'm rambling. Back to Florida. It's now in British hands. 

The British split Florida into 2 colonies, Eastern and Western Florida, so the British flag flew over the land until Spain took it back in 1783, and ran up a new Spanish flag which stood until 1821, when Spain transferred all of Florida to the United States. 

East and West Florida, split along the Apalachicola River:

Spanish Flag over Florida (1783—1821):

After joining the United States in 1821, Florida didn't bother making an official state flag until it decided to leave the United States, seceding 40 years later in 1861. Even then, they didn't design their own flag, simply using the Naval Ensign of Texas, which is pretty much the current Lone Star Flag. Later in the year, the state legislature finally gave then Governor Perry, permission to design a new state flag. I guess they figured since he settled the dispute with Georgia over their northern border, that he could easily design a flag. Even then, this flag borrowed form the first Confederate flag, The Stars and Bars, but instead Perry extended the blue field to the bottom of the flag and placed a newly designed state seal in the middle. It took the Governor six months to put his design in the books. You can see what that might have looked like in the photo below, via News Press

The Perry Flag of 1861—1868: 

The Perry Flag's seal (itself featuring a flag, which is kind of an Inception-esque, flag within a flag) was changed in 1868. According to the state's records, "That a Seal of the size of the American silver dollar, having in the center thereof a view of the sun's rays over a high land in the distance, a cocoa tree, a steamboat on water, and an Indian female scattering flowers in the foreground, encircled by the words, 'Great Seal of the State of Florida: In God We Trust." This new seal would be centered on a pure white background and be the state flag until 1900. I can't find a reason why they dropped the Perry Flag, other than a new governor wanting to get rid of his legacy. That's just a guess.  

Interesting thing about a mainly white flag while at rest on a could easily be mistaken for the flag of surrender and retreat—something that would still be in the hearts and minds (and butts) of a southern state so soon after the Civil War. In my mind, some good ole southern boy takes a walk on a pleasant and still day; and as he passes the rather flaccid flag it strikes him in his still-confederate soul. Needless to say, they add the Burgundy Saltire behind the state seal. That's the real reason for the cross in the current state flag, not the Spanish history. This amuses me a great deal, but maybe because I'm a Yankee by birth. 

The Seal, and presumably the flag, has undergone a bunch of small changes since 1900. The landscape once featured a mountain range, which you can't find in Florida at all. The cocoa tree was changed to a indigenous palm, in 1970. The Sabal Palmetto to be exact, which also serves as the state tree. The female figure, possibly the most controversial aspect of all, has been rendered in hundreds of different ways, most of them pretty poor in quality and historical accuracy. The one below shows a headdress, which would have been worn instead by the male. Ooops. The ship in the background was also inconsistent and probably at one point was a submarine. (Slightly kidding.) To the state's credit, they tried to rectify these issues in 1985, with a law that declared the figure to be a Seminole Indian woman rather than a Western Plains Indian. The steamboat was drawn more accurately, and the cocoa palm was visually changed to a Sabal Palm as the legislature prescribed 15 years earlier, as mentioned before.

Earlier State Seal vs Current Florida Seal:

The flag law is pretty simple, "The seal of the state, in diameter one-half the hoist, shall occupy the center of a white ground. Red bars, in width one-fifth the hoist, shall extend from each corner towards the center, to the outer rim of the seal."

The problem with using a state seal on your flag is pretty obvious, there is simply too much detail to even matter. What works as a seal only obfuscates things on a flag. But that's where we currently stand on all things flag related in florida; a burgundy saltire on a white field with the complicated state seal sitting in the middle. As you can imagine, the ways in which the seal are rendered vary dramatically from use to use. Oddly enough, in order to use the seal you need to fill out a form from the State Department's site. But, in true government fashion, that link is broken. Wonder if they'll try to shut down Graphicology? Nah, who reads this crap anyway?

Now, where do we go from here?

History aside, Florida has a lot of interesting things going on that might make for an interesting flag. It's truly the sunshine state, even though I bet most people would incorrectly guess that motto belongs to California. Relatedly, they're known for their citrus industry and it's easy to see how that might make for some bright and colorful, dare I say, South-beach design. But I have to admit, the Miami Marlins new look will makes me skittish about that.

Your 2012 Miami Marlin Uniforms:

And oh yes, the beaches! They might have the best beaches in the country, if you include The Keys into the mix. Some other thoughts floating around in my head are the scooters older folks seem to be driving/riding more and more, but that's a bit too humorous for a serious attempt at a flag redesign. Florida's unique geography and ecosystems make trying something with a hint of nature — understandable, especially something with the Everglades. I did try a few options involving alligators to illustrate the wildness of the southern part of the state, but ended up tossing them, not because I didn't like them but because they seem to exclude too many things that the state has going for it. I was fond of one in particular that involved an orange with a leaf, but within the leaf shape I was planning on hiding an alligator. Check out a very rough comp of that direction below. I admit, using the orange, felt way too easy, and was one reason I dropped it. (Can you see how the alligator could have been floating in the orange while also looking like an orange stem/leaf?)

An Early Alligator in Orange Concept:

*This is normally where I stop writing and start drawing. Typically, I only give myself a few hours to concept, sketch and produce the new flag. (I can't afford any more time due to my schedule) but I'm not sure that it's obvious to you find readers. Between this paragraph and the final flag coming up next, could pass a few hours, a day or even a few days, depending on when I can get to the actual design. One thing is for sure, I do try to make the design reflect what we learn for each state. If not the only solution, I want to develop, a viable solution for a contemporary state flag. Something that fits and is appropriate.

The time between the above paragraph and this one, has been more than two weeks. I've been a busy guy at work and just couldn't find the time to devote to this personal project. But sometimes the time off can be a good thing. I decided against the wild concepts, mainly because they only tell one part of Florida's personality. I went back to the fountain of youth concept and thought that the spirit of finding eternal youth, still very much describes some of the key characteristics of the state. In the winter months, thousands of older Northerners make the migration down to stay in Florida. You also have millions of visitors coming to Orlando to either be a kid again, or show their kids all things Disney. And of course, the best parts of Florida give off a very distinct youthful vibe; South Beach, Miami, the latin influence—all play into this. 

So I started looking at fountains and cherubs and thought this would make a very nice symbol to begin to strengthen Florida's brand and tie it ever more stronlgy to the idea of keeping the joy of childhood alive. It played a small part in the beginning of the state's history and like I said, it plays an even bigger role today. So I began sketching again. This time, I want the aesthetic to remain illustrated, and not so vector-like. (One of the fun parts of a project like this is the opportunity to push your personal styles — under a very tight timeline.) I also want to keep a more neutral palette to the flag, since it has been mostly white for so long. I had a little fun using a fish as the water vessel as well as hinting at the base of the fountain without having to show too much of it. It felt like it needed to be grounded, as if, there's still a place where this fountain is — but it's still a secret. I included the words, semper iuvenis, which mean always young. 

The result is a little different than the rest of the flags, but it contains a built-in branding idea that could help focus Florida's tourism, business and leisure industries—Florida as the secret to staying young. 

But after sitting with this for awhile, the design seems a bit off from the brand even if it's been fun to do. So I went back and decided to pick up the cues from what people think about the state, warmth, citrus, sun, beaches and tried to put all of those elements into a form that would be instantly recognizeable. I came up with two versions which allowed me to use the state seal (something I've been trying to avoid.) Sometimes the solution lies in the problem, and I think this is one of those cases. I produced two versions and am deciding between the two. I think both solve this Florida flag issue once and for all, with the fruit and seal being the center, representing the states climate behind a big field of sea-green for the ocean. Plus, I think this flag would have a chance in their legistlature of passing. Always a plus. Now, onto Georgia. For real this time. 

The 2012 Florida State Flag(s):


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Reader Comments (1)

OK, I am not a huge fan of the current State of Florida flag... and I agree with most of your commentary regarding the direction of change. However, the colors are all wrong for our state. My first emotional reaction to the 2012 flag is "Greek statue" and "dreary gloomy Florida". Florida's current flag is bright, vibrant and the pattern "x" almost appears as rays of abstract sunlight. I think the fountain of youth is a unique part of Florida's rich history, but again not a tourist draw at all, nor what we want the state to be known for. Moving forward, more young people are moving to Florida... this is good for the Florida Brand. Florida has been known for the "fuddy duddy old folks retirement state" and it's just not that way anymore.

We should stick with sunshine, fun, subtropical, citrus and diversity. Those are what Florida is at it's core. Just my two cents.
February 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTravis Webster

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