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382. Gibson Beer.

It sure is nice when you can post about something your friend is doing. Fellow Brandcenter grad and art director Brian Gibson has just brewed a batch of beer as a personal project. He claims that there are laws against shipping some out to Arizona—so I haven't tasted the beer—but I have seen the packaging and it's a pretty handsome set of bottles.

For me, the design achieves something that is often attempted but seldom accomplished. A clean, simple design system that still feels sophisticated and nuanced. I love the different bottles for the different styles and the color palettes for each are perfect. Again, the only thing missing is having a bottle to try out the contents. Good news for you — I believe Brian is looking for a gig, so if you have an opening you might want to invite him to an interview. Maybe he'll bring one of his bottles for you to try out along with his portfolio, which you can view here.

Good work, my man.


381. State Flag Revisions: Hawaii.

There may be no state flag more tragic than that of Hawaii. (Almost as tragic as this article taking me over four months to finish. Suffice it to say, we've been busy at Graphicology HQ.)

First let's quickly dive into a little state history, then to the history of their flag.

The earliest settlers of Hawaii were Polynesians who used jumbo-sized canoes to travel to the islands sometime between 500 and 1300 AD. There are a few theories whether this settlement happened at once, during a single drawn out period, or during many stages from a few different origins. (Tahiti and Marquesas Islands for two examples.) Nobody really knows. Modern history starts in 1778, when Captain James Cook's crew stumbled upon the islands while heading out to find the Northwest Passage between Asia and Alaska. Cook named the land, The Sandwich Islands after the fourth Earl of Sandwich. (You don't need to know too much about the Earl of Sandwich other than that is was a 17th-century title named after an English naval commander.) So begins the Colonial influence in the area.

Or did it?

What you don't learn in history books outside of Spain, is that it's possible that the first Europeans to Hawaii were not English but Spanish. And they were not only there in the 1700s but all the way back to 1555. According to Wikipedia, there are Spanish maps of the area in which the islands are shown in their current location, with a 10° error to the east. There is also a sea chart from Ruy López de Villalobos' fleet of six ships dated in 1551 that seems to prove this, with an archipelago located very closely to Hawaii's real location. Some scholars believe this was Hawaii. Some believe it was the Marshall Islands. I tried to find this map but couldn't source even a decent-sized portrait of Señor López. I have failed you.

A surprise to me, Russia had an influence on the islands too. After 1815 three Russian forts were built on the islands, and Russia was an official protectorate of the Kingdom. (Russian had three forts on Hawai'i? Yes. Betcha didn't know that, did ya?)

Perhaps because of—and with the help of—European pressure, the islands were united by a single ruler in 1810. Using foreign (American and British) weapons and advisors, Kamehameha I established the Kingdom of Hawai'i but it wasn't easy. Battles ensued from 1795 to 1810 between the islands until Kaua'i and Ni'ihau basically surrendered to—let's call him K, OK—K's growing army. This new-found unity both preserved the islands' independence but also was the beginning of the end with the annexing of the territory to the United States in 1898. Outside of Hawaii, K is best known for the Law of the Splintered People, in which noncombatants were protected in times of war or during battles. It was the first written law of Hawai'i and has influenced many subsequent humanitarian laws. And just for fun, Kamehameha's full Hawaiian name is Kalani Paiʻea Wohi o Kaleikini Kealiʻikui Kamehameha o ʻIolani i Kaiwikapu kaui Ka Liholiho Kūnuiākea.

K's statue in Oahu:

Before all of the Colonial ties, The Kingdom of Hawai'i had a deep and unique culture. Hawaii had it's own religion, a polytheistic and animistic tradition. It had its system of laws and regulations called Kapu, which were pretty strict in terms of lifestyle, gender roles, eating practices and spiritual things. The Kapu system was denounced by K2. He did so by having a dinner of previously forbidden foods with the women he loved. Before that it was also forbidden for a man and a woman to eat together. Strict, yes, but the land had it's own thing. It's own culture.

So how did it become a state? It all started with the Reciprocity Treaty of 1875 between the Kingdom of Hawaii and the United States which allowed for duty-free importation of Hawaiian sugar. This treaty ackowledged Hawai'i as a sovereign nation, but also gave the US the port called Pearl Harbor. For the next twenty years Hawai'i saw several rebellions and revolutions due to currupt government, debt and a growing fear of US military and agricultural presence. The island succombed to these pressures in 1894 when it became The Republic of Hawaii under Sanford Dole. That name should sound familiar. US President at the time, Grover Cleveland was against annexation of Hawaii and it was delayed until McKinley took office. He was an expansionist and wrote an annexation bill in 1894 despite lack of public support and the little matter of it being against international law. In 1897 Japan even sent warships to Hawaii to oppose the annexation. By 1898, Hawaii was annexed anyway becoming a territory of the US. Their Governor was none other than Sanford Dole. (Where have we heard that name before?)

The next forty years were marked by an explosion of agricultural expansion and water works projects to support them. Of course WWII brought Hawaii and the US closer, with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. And 18 years later a vote was held to approve statehood by the population of Hawaii. All islands voted at least 93% in favor of this movement, but of course the islands were populated heavily by this time with Americans.

The 1959 Ballot for Hawaiian Statehood:

The Hawaiian State Flag.

So, in the matter of about 180 years, Hawai'i went from a scattered group of islands ruled by many Kings, to a united Kingdom, to a republic, to a territory of the US, until it achieved statehood in 1959. That's a lot of change in a short period of time. The crazy thing is this, it officially had only one flag throughout this whole time. It's the only U.S. state flag to have flown over a kingdom, a territory, a republic, and a state.

In 1816, Kamehameha the Great commissioned the Hawaiian Flag, which pretty much went unchanged for these 180 years. The flag featured eight stripes of red, white and blue representing the eight islands of Hawaii. The British Union Jack sits in the top left field, a symbol of Britians long-term status of protectorate. (Russia probably feels a bit left out.) The jack is also supposed to represent something called the Hawaiian ali'i, a symbol of royalty that is marked by two crossed spears. The latter symbolism is not clear to me, so perhaps they just told locals that to make them feel better. Here's my bet for the true story behind the flag below.

In the book, The History of the United States Flag by Quaife, Weig, and Appleman (1961) the authors describe a little bit of a flag issue during the war of 1812 which featured two of the islands protectorates fighting it out. "During the War of 1812, an American asked why the King (Kamehameha) was flying the "enemy" flag. He lowered it and raised the U.S. Flag, only to have the same thing happen when a British ship put into port. To avoid trouble, they decided to combine the two flags into one." You have to admit that's pretty good politics if nothing else.

Not surprisingly, the resulting design is one of the ugliest flags in the states. It reminds me of a golfer wearing unmatching patterns of stripes and plaid. A very patriotic, fashionably inept golfer. To make matters worse, it's a much longer (wider) flag than most. So now we have a gangly, patriotic, fashionably inept golfer.

The Current Hawaii State Flag:

What's sad is that this flags represents nothing of the Hawaii's history before the Colonial era. So not only is it ugly, it's a shame. The Hawaiian people have lost much of their unique character and culture, and there's a British flag flying over their state. We're going to rectify this for once and for all.

Now, there are some Hawaiians, The Kanaka Maoli (true people in the Hawaiin language,) who talk about an early flag of the Kingdom of Hawai'i. They say the current flag is a symbol of colonialism which is hard to argue against. They also say their flag is the original Hawai'ian flag and the personal flag of Kamehameha. It featured a red, gren and yellow color scheme. Nine alternating stripes in the background with a shield of the original Hawaiian royal standard in the middle. The two paddles represent the original settlers of the islands mentioned at the top of this article.

According to the Honolulu Advertiser, Gene Simeona says he ran into a descendant of Lord Paulet on the grounds of 'lolani Palace in 1999 who told him the present Hawaiian flag is not the original. "That provoked Simeona to scour the Hawai‘i State Archives, where he found the design, then reproduced it. Since then, he and his business partner Stan Fonseca have been churning the emblem out in hopes that it’ll catch on as a fresh, noncolonial symbol of the restored Hawaiian kingdom.

The Kanaka Maoli Hawaiian Flag:

Not only is this flag a bit too raggea for my tastes, it's also considerably ugly. Scholars even debate the authenticty of this flag and have yet to find any real proof that Simeona is right. What is right is that the state deserves a flag without Colonialism and it should have been designed when it became a territory of the United States.

There are three current Hawaii independence movements that have their own flags. Although I'm not pushing for Hawaii to revert back to their own nation with this project, I think acknowledging the flag designs makes perfect sense.

  1. The Nation of Hawai'i is a pro-independence group of people who are the direct descendants of the original inhabitants of the islands. Their flag features a tricolored flags with a Kahili symbol in the middle yellow stripe.
  2. The Polynesian Sovereignty movement is a group that wants some level of self-determination for Hawai'i as it's own nation or at least to be ruled much like the Native Tribes on the contigious United States. (According to Wikepedia there is also a counter-sovereignty movement that exists in Hawaiʻi, which views the historical and legal basis for these claims as invalid and discriminatory.) Their flag is a blue field with a constellation of white stars representing nine islands.
  3. describes the third group calling themselves Hawai'i Ko Aloha. "They claim to represent all the lineal descendants of Hawaiians from Maka'ainana to Alii. The colors of the background of their Flag represent the Nine islands of the inhabited Hawaiian chain prior to the arrival of the western exploiters. The saying Hawaii ko Aloha means "Love of our land of Hawaii."

Three Hawaii Indepedence Flags:


First, some fun:

What everyone thinks of Hawaii centers around their tourism efforts. It is paradise and a great place to get married or have a vacation. Visually that gives us a lot to work with, some silly and some pretty cool. If we just wanted to develop a unique state flag that everyone would recognize immediately, we could do worse than select an hibiscus pattern commonly seen in most Hawaiian shirts. It does make me laugh, so that's good. We could also feature the kitschy dashboard hula girl, that would work too. But neither really connect to the historical and cultural problems discussed above and we don't want a joke as a flag. This is serious business, folks.

The Hawaiian Shirt & Dashboard Hula Girl Flags:

So what I think I'm going to do is focus on the boat people that first came to the area, before all the chaos broke out in the late 1770s. Bring that heritage forward as a reminder and drop the focus on Colonialism. Seems like the right thing to do. I'd also like to reference The Kanaka Maoli Hawaiian Flag or at least the symbols found in it. 

One of my readers developed a similar concept and sent me this Hawaii flag design.

"I see on your blog that you are working on a flag design for Hawaii. I have been working on an icon design for Hawaii as a personal project, and I thought you might find the following useful for your work:"I was thinking that, for a state flag, my design should be modified slightly. Since there is legally no noble class in the U.S., the kahili would be made white rather than gold, representing the concept of nobility rather than the institution. The sea-blue border would be extended to form the field of the flag, making a green island in a blue sea. These changes also incorporate red, white and blue, thus associating the flag with the U.S. national flag. Thanks, E. W. Jones."  I always appreciate enthusiasm from my readers, so here's a flag made from the icon sent by E.W. Thanks!

A Reader Submission from E.W. Jones:

So E.W. is going back to the same reference I intended to. My result is a little different however, which is part of the fun of all of this. First, I developed a pattern using traditional paddles, added a bit of polynesian design to them, and then wrapped the paddles in colored ribbons each reflecting the influence of the nations who have exerted influence of the state. The red, white and blue of The U.S., Great Britain and Russia. The green, red and yellow of the original Hawaiian flag (reportedly), and a color scheme to represent the original polynesian 'Paddle People'. Yes, we could have taken the Kanaka Maoli and simply made a better rendered version, but it really is too ugly for our purposes here. And the Kahili symbol, while known in Hawaii, is a tough item to turn into a flag graphic. We're going to attempt to add meaning, recognzie, modernize and beautify all at the same.

A Replica Paddle for Reference:

The only thing left to do was to work on the background, which I wanted to keep as bright as possible. So bright that I ended up leaving it white. I think it's a handsome flag that will do well for Hawaii, as well as fit in with the rest of the redesigns so far. If I were to make one of these flags, I would do so out of sturdy, bright linen. Another point, is that yes there is a lot of detail in this flag, but as a whole it still works from afar on a more graphic level. The paddles generate a unique icon on a macro level even if you can't appreciate the micro aspects of the design. At least that's my story.

The New State of Hawaii Flag (with detail shots):

Paddle Detail:

Center Detail, Hawaii Ko Aloha (Love of our land of Hawaii):

So now we move on to Idaho's flag (see it below via the Fifty Flags link), which is an example of everything that is wrong with a majority of our state flags. A poorly rendered state seal on a blue background. There are a lot more of these to come, so we should be able to at least improve upon them. Stay tuned, the next one will come much more quickly than Hawaii's. I promise. Thanks for following along.


380. Urgency & Finesse. 

I'll be writing from time to time on my agency's blog, MA Says. Over the weekend I wrote a little piece about two words that have been on my mind since taking the VP/Creative Director position at Moses Anshell. Those words? Urgency and finesse. They are words that come from a little something I heard once about Thomas Keller's kitchen at The French Laundry. A recent purchase of mine hammered both words into my thoughts  even further. (Things in ones life connect in weird ways when we pay attention.)

Check it out and comment away.


378. Ad of the Week: Ikea.

Ikea is no stranger to good work, if a bit inconsistent. These simple banner ads take an uninspired media and make it resonate with the  brand's higher purpose: making the best use of your space. I could do without the case study presentation, but the idea is too nice not to share. 

The Smallest IKEA Store in the World.

I promise I'll be more active on here over the next few weeks. We have big things going on over at Moses Anshell, my new home and cool stuff happening here as well. More flags coming people! (Georgia's all but written and designed.)


377. Searching.

If you have ever written an article about West Virginia, and talked to me via email — contact me again. I've lost your email and I wish to reconnect. I remember your writing though, it was great! THANKS.


376. Next. 

I don't normally announce things like this on the blog but I thought it appropriate this time. On March 28th, I will be taking a position at Moses Anshell in Phoenix as Vice President and Creative Director. Moses Anshell has a history of crafting award-winning work, being a proudly independent shop, and building long-term client relationships. Louie Moses is also a great person and creative for whom to work—a lot of my professional development is due to his mentorship as I was lucky enough to work at MA back in 2003-2005 as Associate Creative Director. I am thrilled about rejoining them, this time as a partner. I do believe we will be creating our own unique version of the agency of the future. It's an exciting venture. Worthwhile. Challenging. And one that you will be hearing much more about over the coming weeks, months and years. (And if you know anything about Louie, what you will be hearing will probably take the form of some rather good music.) I can't wait to begin.

However every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end. (Who sang that?) And it is not without a heavy heart that I'm leaving the friendly confines of the old Gossage Firehouse on 451 Pacific. Engine Company 1 is a wonderful place to work and is filled with some of the nicest and most talented folks I have ever had the pleasure of getting to know. I am grateful to have been in the position to learn from not just one but three amazing Creative Directors: Grant Richards, Scott Aal, and Vince Engel. Any success I may find in my new venture will be from observing these guys at work. If I can succeed and be half as kind, gracious, and classy as these guys I will consider that a win. If there are any talented creative folks reading this, you could hardly do better than trying to get in here. Most likely you'll find it a far more rewarding experience than other agencies out there can offer. (And you'll be able to say you were there when, when the rest of the world figures this out.) I know I'm leaving them in good hands, on good terms and on the brink of big things. They are my friends and I will miss them all.

Right now, I am overwhelmed with an awareness of how lucky I am to have the opportunity that lies ahead of me. And how lucky I am for having had the one behind me as well. A true embarrassment of riches if there ever was one.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

As a side note, MA will be hiring a writer soon. We're looking for someone with a few years experience. Enough to know what you're doing, but not enough that you've lost the desire to prove it. Obviously you must be willing to travel the road less taken, ala Phoenix, and have a strong desire to do the best work of your career. You'll be rewarded with a great place to work, wonderful mentors, good projects and plenty of opportunity. If you are swayed by the big lights of Manhattan or the easy money of big agency holding companies, it's probably not the best fit. If on the other hand you have a bit of a rebellious streak, let's talk. Just send me your portfolio and info via the contact us link in the column on the right. Those with a diverse background, ethnicity, orientation, and education—but also mindset—are strongly encouraged to apply.


375. Innovate or Whine.

If you're a business out there, and an agency representing said business, if you're focused simply on storytelling or creating communications, you are going to fall behind. I don't think this will happen so slowly that you don't notice at first, I think it is already happening so fast that a lot of folks are missing it. They're blinking and when their eyelids pop back open, the whole landscape is going to have changed. I believe if an agency is going to succeed they must move closer to the product, help change the business and industry their clients are in, build the types of relationships required to do so, and be inventive. Yes, inventive in how/what they communicate but literally inventive—as in inventing things that didn't exist yesterday. 

I've been fortunate enough to teach at the Miami Ad School while in San Francisco, and most of the quarters have been a class called, Everything is Media. It's designed to get students to think outside the normal mediums and look at everything as a potential element in a brand's communication. Of course, this doesn't come without issues, as I even tell them to think of the class title as a question. Should Everything be Media? We have to be responsible about what we put where, but beyond that the class is a really good chance to practice being inventive. Inventive in mediums, story, product, distribution, digital, you name it. What's going to be frustrating for them is that most of the agencies they'll go work for are not ready for that type of thinking. Heck, most clients are not ready either.

I won't embarrass anyone and pick a project from my class, as that may seem self-serving. But here's a student project I had nothing to do with that I think fits this kind of thinking. The Chimney for Kingsford. Sure, they could have produced some great ads for Kingsford, but they invented something new instead (and the ads for this little thing could be great too, so that's a win-win.) This was published via The Dieline earlier this week, and credits go to design team,  Michael DiCristina , Chris Yoon , Peter Smith, Meredith Morten, Blake Sanders, Vivian Rodriguez. (For some reason, their school isn't listed, but they seem to be from Atlanta. Portfolio Center perhaps?) 

The Kingsford Chimney:

We don't have to look too far to see examples of this type of business rebellion, in real business. If you're Gillette or Schick this week had better been an eye-opening experience for several reasons. First, a new company has come in and disrupted how your business is being done. Dollar Shave Club is now selling $1 razors and delivering them to your customers door. (Sure, the real business model is selling the $6 or $9 razors, but I digress.) Secondly, how that business is communicating to your customers, or what used to be your customers, is more human, interesting, compelling and honest than all the junk you've been putting across the airwaves for the last, oh, say 60 years. Gillette could have done this, if they and their agency had been courageous enough and proactive enough to think ahead. "Where is our company vulnerable?" "How could someone come along and change our business?" "What can we do to be the razor company of the next 25 years?"

Dollar Shave Club:

That's the kind of thinking required now. And that's the type of relationship required between a company and an agency, whether in-house or not. The agency must not only function as communications firm, but also the conduit to the consumer and be constantly inventing new ways to do business. And the client must be willing to use the agency in this way, or at least have people inside their company do so. (The agency is best-suited in my opinion because of their unique skill set and ability to see outside the business.) We're really good at redefining a company, and sometimes that's the first step. Restating the problem from, "How can we promote this?" to "What can we do that is worthy of being promoted?" 

Another great example of this disruption, if you will forgive me for using jargon, is what Warby Parker is doing to the prescription glasses industry. If you want quality glasses, you'd normally have to go to an eye doctor or specialty optometrist's shop and pay a lot of money. If you wanted cheap, you'd have to go to a drug store and get the 2 for $10 a pair deal. What Warby Parker is doing fits somewhere in the middle, quality; dare-I-say-designer glasses for $99; plus the additional pair they donate to those who can't afford them. Another disruption is their service of shipping five frames to your door so that you can try them on for free. (They even give you the shipping label and box to send them back in 5 days.) This is incredibly convenient. I actually did this, because it was so easy. The only issue I have with their glasses is that they are made in China and felt slightly less refined than I had hoped. If they were made in California or New York, felt a bit more sturdy, I would have already ordered them in a second. I'm still thinking about it.

Warby Parker's 5 Day Trial:

What's stopping Lens Crafters from doing this? Nothing. Nothing but the imagination and foresight to try. How can we make our customers lives better? What can we do for them that will add value to their experience with us?" Some of this responsibility lies with the agency.

That's a lot of pressure, but if it were easy anyone would be doing it. I have a feeling a lot of agencies are going to become more like production houses, making money on producing thousands of variations of banner ads and retail signs. There's nothing wrong with that. Me, I'd rather help a client change their business for the better and help them thrive in an ever-changing corporate, consumer and communications landscape. There's a lot of fun to be had there and that's the future of the agency. At least the good ones.

Here's a relatively new idea that demonstrates the type of thinking an agency can provide their client. Beyond communications, and more in line with this inventive, bettering the lives of customers ethos: The kick-open hatch being unveiled by Ford for the Escape. If your hands are full (which they often are if you are needing to put something in your trunk/boot), you simply kick the bumper and the lid opens. Of course, I don't know where the idea came from—who personally had the 'ah-hah' moment—but this is the future. Check it out. 

Hands-free Tailgate from Ford:

I'm not taking credit for this 'idea' of course. Lots of folks have talked about the new role of the future agency. It's also way more difficult to do than to say, but it has become more and more real to me lately. Personally, I want to be able to produce digital and ambient and beautiful film, but I think a far more valuable asset is to be able to be invent new ways for a company to connect with their customers, new ways to make a product and service better, and just new things in general. To always be thinking on behalf of the clients we represent, but also for the people we sell to. How great would it be for a client to think of you in those terms? I bet they'd be really slow to open up the account for review. 

Again, three of these examples are from this past week alone. Relatedly, I'll leave you this thought from Lee Clowe concerning ideas, from the :30 MBA series on FastCompany.


374. Ad of the Week: Cartier's Odyssee. 

I'm not much of a jewelry fan, let alone diamonds; it's both an aesthetic and ethical thing. I know I don't understand how diamonds reach our local jewelry store, but I have seen Blood Diamond and that's enough to give me pause. What I know I dislike is the fairly traditional approach to super-lux fashion advertising, mainly because it makes me feel dirty. The exteme wealth, the arrogance, the self-centeredness, the contrast and ambivalence to extreme poverty in the world. Blah. It makes me wish all the effort and money that goes into buying such unnecessary things could somehow be used for something better. (Admittedly, this is a bit of hypocrsy, since I'll gladly spend money on the latest gadget which has similarly inhumane origins. I'm a flawed human, see.) 

The lastest film from French jeweler, Cartier, is definitively an example of this type of advertising but has pushed the genre to such a ridiculous extreme that it actually is worth watching. It's so overwrought that it's good. The company is saying this about the new epic short film: "Discover the new Cartier film, a journey between dream and reality. For the very first time, Cartier has decided to create a cinema epic focusing on its history, its values and inspiration, its artistic and universal scope." The film—shot by French director Bruno Aveillan, one of the country's premier commercial directors—was screened first time at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York on February 29, according to Wikipedia.

Coming it at just over three and a half minutes, the film takes the viewer on quite the visual journey. It's decadent, extravagant, and excessive but also beautiful. The story is broken into seven chapters: First Breath, Land of the Tsars, Love and Trinity, The Celestial Dragon, Indian Dream, Conquering the Skies, and the Panther. Some of the symbolism is lost on me (some is too obvious to miss), but nothing has been spared to make the experience feel as opulent as the jewelry the company sells. Check it out. 

L'Odyssée de Cartier:

What I do appreciate is that the company is also providing background information that rounds out, and extends, the interaction one can have with the story. There's a great behind the scenes video, which I have taken the trouble of downloading and republishing in an embeddable format. Watch that below. You can also download the score, which is nice too. Perhaps you can play it when you spend six months of your salary on diamond necklace for that special someone who puts a price on your love. Kidding, kidding. 

Making of, L'Odyssée de Cartier (in French but still enjoyable):


To top it all off, there is also a gallery of their Panthere, where the brand explains why they have used the large cat as a symbol for their products, along with a few images taken during the shoot. I appreciate that much of the cat was shot live-action and not CG. Makes a big difference. 

Again, this isn't the type of advertising that I aspire to, beyond having a budget and freedom to tell a story, but it is grand and hard to ignore. So on that level, it succeeds like few ads have so far this year. 

And, yes, I'm still working on the Fifty Flag series, loyal readers. More to come soon on that front. 


373. Unboxing the Nike Fuel Band.

I got an early tip on the Nike Fuel Band. They're launching today and my shipment arrived at the office. I thought I would post a few unboxing shots. (I realize there is a whole unboxing trend which I admit finding a bit disturbing, but it's a pretty cool product and I thought my readers would like an early peek.) Whether or not it ends up being a useful tool in my personal fitness routine remains to be seen. Check it out. 


379. State Flag Revisions: Georgia.

I always think of trooper glasses when I think of Georgia. It's not fair, but it's true.Now here's a perfect example of how political compromise can result in a less-than-stellar product. Georgia's flag isn't terrible, but it's nothing special either—despite being the newest flag of all the US States. One would think that modern design aesthetic would result in a more handsome flag. That is not the case. Ratified by law in 2003, the Georgia flag requires that we go back to 1788 to fully understand how it came to be. There's a rich story ripe with tension.

1788 was the year that Georgia ratified the US Constitution, only the fourth state to do so. At this point the state was already 50 years old, originally established by the British as a trustee colony, itself initially intended as a place to give ex-debtor prisoners from London somewhere to work in 1732. The charter was signed by George II, it's namesake, and was more likely done so as a military buffer for South Carolina from the Spanish in Florida. The original inhabitants were chosen for their work skills, and if you were a male, that meant fightin'. Interesting enough, the original trustee colony prohibited slavery, something a lot people don't know I'd bet. Throughout much of the 1700's the flag that flew over Georgia was the British Engsign Flag.

British Ensign Flag of the 1700s:

For the major part of first two decades of its history, Georgia was anti-slavery. Go figure. But as they are wont to do, economic pressure usually trumps ideals and slavery became accepted gradually, with the prohibition being lifted in 1749. Somebody had to man the cotton fields, and those men came from Western Africa. Two years later, in 1752, the trustee colony officially became a Royal Colony of the British Empire. Georgia was slow to join the American Revolution but again, trade issues of the colony dictated that they do so, and again, they signed Constitution of 1776 and were the fourth state to join the Union 12 years later.

During the Revolutionary period there were many flags, mostly amateur-made, that would have flown over Georgia. Four of those can be seen below, most popular in Georgia were the two Liberty flags on the right.

Georgia Independence Movement Flags 1775-177:

After winning its independence, most states in the Union simply few the US flag. All the usual variations would have flown over Georgia until right before the Civil War. It was 73 years later that the state seceeded from the Union, joining the Confederate States of America in 1861, and sending hundreds of thousands of Georgians northward into battle. The first major battle in Georgia — in case you're wondering — occurred at the Battle of Chickamauga, a confederate victory that temporarily halted the Union advance in the Western Theater. It featured the second highest casualties of the whole war, second only to Gettysburgh, and despite it being the first major battle in the state, it was the last major Confederate win in the west. Things went downhill for the confederate state from there, despite many bloody battles of the Atlanta campaign. During the war, the confederate flag few over Georgia. This would be something that would dictate future flags up until the present day.

The Three National Confederacy Flags, In Order:

After losing the Civil War, a lot of southern states begrudgingly flew the US national flag as their state flag. At this point, it wasn't necessary to have a state flag per se and quite honestly, the states had bigger problems they needed to focus on. There is no official account as to who designed the first Georgia flag, what it may have looked like or even the basis for creating it. Most resources actually skip right into the 1900s, but there were other flags for the state that pre-dated the war, and actually influenced the flag in the 20th century. Those flags featured a state seal and were used when militias were sent outside the state as a way to designate the soldiers as Georgians. There's proof this flag existed in the engraving below along with two best-guess replicas supplied by the University of Georgia.

Pre-1879 State Seal Flag of Georgia:

In 1879, Senator (and Confederate veteran) Herman H. Perry introduced legislation designing for Georgia its first official state flag. Not surprisingly, Perry's design used the Confederate Stars & Bars as its foundation, but his flag removed the stars and brought the blue field (canton) down to the bottom of the flag. It looked something like this:

Georgia's First Official State Flag:

This flag would fly unchanged until the 1900s, but was met with a rash of three major changes in the first part of the century. In 1902 the General Assembly decided to add the state coat of arms to the blue canton  in order to unify all the state military groups under one flag. According to the Georgia Secretary of State site, the next version came to life in 1906, but without any official support from the government.

"Some unknown person or flag manufacturer added a gold-outlined white shield to the coat of arms, placed the date "1799" below the arms and added a red ribbon with "Georgia" below the shield. Although the General Assembly hadn't authorized any changes to the state flag, apparently no one contested the new version. In fact, a Georgia history book for children published in 1906 includes a full-page color rendering of this design, indicating this to be the state flag of Georgia."

I think it's funny, but by now not surprising at all, that our state flags are so casual in their standards. One would have thought differently. Anyway, the weirdness is not done by any means. By 1920, yet another unofficial version of the state flag began appearing, this one featuring the entire State Seal in the blue canton. Yet both of these new versions were going against the law set forth in 1906. It wasn't until the mid 1950s that this would be corrected, but the controversy was just beginning to heat up.  

The Three Flag Fiasco of the early 1900s:

So, let's check back in during the mid-1950s. Of course the civil rights movment was just getting started and tensions were pretty high. What a perfect time to change the flag into one that recognizes the Confederacy. (Nice thinking guys.) In '56 State Senators Jefferson Lee Davis and Willis Harden introduced Senate Bill No. 98 to change the state flag design again, making a large field on the right contain the Confederate Battle Flag. This marked the first time in its history that the state's flag was determined by law and the law stood for 45 years until 2001. But all was not rosey. By the 1960s many were expressing frustration that the flag represented a bad time in the state's history (with the war and racism and all) and throughout the 80s and 90s multiple challenges to the controversial flag were mounted in the form of bill proposals recommending returning to a pre-1956 banner. 

The 1956 Georgia Flag:

What happens in 2001 is reminiscent of a lot of the flags we've covered so far, design by compromise. It was during this year that a compromise flag was proposed by a local architect wanting to solve this flag issue once and for all. His design featured the Seal of Georgia in gold on a blue field. The seal was surrounded by thirteen stars representing, well, you can guess what they represented. The next element is the root of both the success and ultimate failure of this flag, a banner featuring the major flags that have flown over Georgia. Five flags within the flag, an almost Inception-level design compromise. The words Georgia's History labeled the ribbon just in case anyone didn't realize what all those flags were for, and In God We Trust  was added by amendment before the bill finally passed in late January. By no accounts is the result a pretty flag. And it only flew for two years before Governor Sonny Perdue took office in 2003 and proclaimed that he was really going to fix this flag issue once and for all, by God.

The Great Compromise Flag of Georgia - 2001:

To his credit it only took the new Governor five months to make good on his word. By May of 2003 a new flag bill was introduced, approved and put into law. The design was largely based on the First National Flag of the Confederate States of America, prominently featuring the Bars of the Stars and Bars. The main elements in the State Seal were kept, along with the thirteen stars and the In God We Trust declaration. There was also a referendum putting the choice to the voters whether they wanted this new 2003 flag or the 2001 flag to fly over Georgia. The newest flag won by a 3-1 margin. And that's how the current Georgia State Flag came to be.

The Current Official Georgia State Flag:

Now, where do we go from here?

I've always found the history of Georgia interesting and I knew that I wanted to do something that felt like an extension of the four independence movement flags. (Those feel the most appropriate for a state founded and settled primarily by fighters.) Another element that is related and also found in some of the later flags is the soldier standing with a Colonial-era sword, drawn at his side. This is symbolic of the state's military defense of the Constitution and makes for an excellent flag graphic. A third element is the motto, Wisdom, Justice & Moderation. Besides being a nice reminder, it also serves to balance the sword and history of battles.

This motto also makes up the state plege which reads, "I pledge allegiance to the Georgia flag and to the principles for which it stands, Wisdom, Justice and Moderation." I think — and it's been awhile — that this is the first flag we've run into with an official pledge. There will be more, even if it seems weird and outdated to this author.

One more tidbit that you should know before I reveal the new Georgia flag. I have always thought the flag flying over Saudi Arabia is graphically amazing. It features a sword, on an emerald field with Islamic declaration of faith in Arabic above. It translates as, "There is no god but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God." Sure, this is probably not a popular message in any southern state, but that doesn't mean I can't take what graphically works and borrw a bit from our Middle Eastern friends, right? By now you should realize where this is going. This is my personal project and I can do with it what I want, so I am. Ha. (If I really wanted to sell this idea, I might be slow to reveal my sources for obvious reasons.)

The Flag of Saudi Arabia:

I'm combining the elements that I like from previous Georgia flags, the Saudi Arabia reference above, and a field of something between red and peach. I also wanted the flag to feel organic or feature a human element so as not to feel too modern. Ideally, if it flew way back in the early years of the state, it would feel right at home. Overall, I'm quite pleased with the result.

The New Georgia State Flag:

I think this is going to be controversial. "Designer gives Georgia a new state flag that is similar to Saudi Arabia." I like it and reference aside, I know a lot of Georgians that would proudly fly this on the back of their F-150s. And it would look good too. A hand-drawn motto, a colonial-era sword, and a bold background will make this flag stand out among the rest of the fifty. Ahhhh, now it's Hawaii's turn. Time to right a big wrong there.