Of all the things to bemoan about the city of Miami, “having a kinda crappy flag” ranks way below more serious issues like, say, the lack of rapid transit, disturbingly large income equality and the fact the place you’re reading this will probably be shin-deep in water by the time your imaginary kids are hitting puberty.
Thankfully, interest levels aren’t like skill points in Dungeons & Dragons — you can be into social justice issues or making sure your bitcoin-powered events promotion company is on the Fortune 500 list in the next ten years and be really into twee shit. Some folks like putting birds on things, like in Portlandia. Me, because I’m also a huge nerd, I like things like flags.
Basically when I was six, my parents gave me toys handed down from my sister, ten years older than me. We were also handed a massive dictionary almanac thing that had, in color, portraits of all the presidents up to Reagan and all the flags of the world. What can I say? It was the most colorful thing in the book and I thought the patterns were cool. Turns out that the study of flags actually has a name: vexillology, and it peaked again recently when a favorite design podcast of mine, 99 Percent Invisible, did a podcast on the flag design of US cities, and what a good flag design should have:
How to design a non-terrible flag
- Keep it simple
- Use meaningful symbolism
- Use two to three basic colors
- No lettering or seals of any kind.
- Be distinctive
Right now, there’s this nerdy but fun movement to look into the redesign of city flags. Take the former flag of Milwaukee, for example, which looks like you’re staring at a place setting of an all-you-can-eat seafood and bratwurst cafe:
That’s that sure is something, right? Imagine if that was flying in a local park; it’d look like an advertisement for the worlds tackiest Fleet Week. A group of designers recently put up a flag redesign for a public vote. Does it matter which one won? No, because they literally all look better than the current flag of Milwaukee.
Bro, I thought this article was about Miami, not Milwaukee
Very well, then. The flag of Miami is comfortably middle of the pack during a 2007 survey ranking flags — somewhere between Chicago, ranked first, and Provo Utah, which looks like some Mormon dude made it with Microsoft Word 98.
The actual flag of Miami looks something akin to the flag of India, if you squint the right way:
And I guess that would be okay, if Miami had, literally, anything to do with India. As one of the 48 Asians here in Miami-Dade County, We all know there’s barely any Asians as is, much less Indians. And it violates rule #5: be distinctive.
The current flag of Miami is also just the seal of the city of Miami, violating rule #4. Seals aren’t bad, of course — how else will you now from the letterhead that someone from city hall is sending you something fancy? But they make for crappy flags, hung from the top of the building far away or made into poorly manufactured trinkets sold at a booth at Bayside. And it isn’t much of Miamians to be really proud of.
So, what are the symbols of Miami?
- The Palm Tree — Twenty to thirty years ago the image of Miami would be the orange, if it weren’t for a homophobic beauty pageant queen, and a citrus tree virus which required everyone to chop their citrus trees down and still pisses off my partner’s abuela to this day. Also, the city of Orlando seems to have adopted the orange symbol themselves, and good for them. So the palm tree it is, in particular, the Roystonea regia or Florida Royal Palm. It’s also the national tree of Cuba, and has a religious role both in Santería and Christianity, which pretty much makes it the tree for Miami. Forever.
- Orange and green — While the orange tree may have gone out of favor, folks still use the orange, green and white colors. At the University of Miami, orange symbolizes the fruit of the orange blossom tree, green represents the leaves and white, the blossoms. (For the snarky people wondering why the colors aren’t Miami Vice pastels, well, that’s more Miami Beach. Totally not the same city.)
And some symbols that probably wouldn’t work
- The flamingo — Okay, I think this would be totally incredible. But where’s the last time you saw a flamingo in Miami, besides Parrot Jungle, Zoo Miami or a Lottery ticket? You’re more than likely to see:
- The alligator — On a flag? To represent, what, how brutal everyone in this city is or how badass we are? What are you, a forth grade boy?
- The Rapper Pitbull — I know he’s on the song you’re listening to on the radio right now, but symbols, not people!
- A woman in a pink halter top riding against one-way traffic screaming “NO ME IMPORTA” repeatedly on her cellphone — As witnessed personally two years ago. Really tempting, but no, and besides, that was in South Beach. It would however make for an incredibly good city seal of Miami Beach, as you can see from this artist’s rendition:
Jason Carucci is so passionate about this flag design he made a petition around it: “Miami is more than just a tourist destination. It is made up of a widely diverse community of people from every part of the World — and everyone should be represented. Our flag should represent everyone regardless of what you look like, what you believe in, where you were born, where you were raised or how much money you make … The new design titled ‘Miami Millennial’ features several colors cut into equal triangles which stand for equality, vision, and unity.”
As for the design, well, maybe sometimes some rules were made to be broken? If nothing else, ten points for the meaning behind it.
This is a design from William-Jose Velez, who recently posted this flag design on reddit, got posted in the Miami New Times, and pretty much kicked the conversation about the flag redesign over again thanks to his Facebook group. “I took inspiration from Miami’s diversity, its mosaic of cultures where everything is very mixed,” Velez says. “For the visual style, I thought about the Wynwood Walls and maybe even a little bit about Britto.”
Needless to say the Reddit thread on Miami got pretty contentious, because Miami and reddit. But it brings us this flag design consideration from reddit user dinosour, so there you go.
“For this flag, I kept the colors that are already on the city’s flag. The palm tree is taken directly from the city’s seal. I don’t have much else to say about this flag.” — Reddit user 016Bramble. While something feels a little off in terms of the proportions of the orange, white and the tree, he simplifies the current flag to something a little more memorable; a palm tree wins over city seal when it comes to redesigning the flag of Miami.
So this one is my idea after an hour of sketching random designs as well as a riff on this from a professional illustrator. At the top, we’re still using that same orange, but I’ve replaced the green with light blue, representing the skies and waters of Biscayne Bay. I also used the palm tree from the original seal, but only because the illustrations of palm trees from The Noun Project looked a little too cute, and importing the icon of, say, a mango in white looks too much like an eggplant. Thanks for ruining eggplants forever, emoji.
You may also notice that the blue is the same light blue from the Argentinean flag. And now that you mention it, the design looks familiar to a certain country 90 miles south of Key West. Huh, total coincidence; it’s not like Miami has a bunch of Cubans or Argentineans living in the city or anything.
These designs are all crap and my Idea for a Miami flag is much better than yours
I’m sure it is! You are a special snowflake after all, and I invite you guys to think up a flag using some of the guidelines above. Besides, the point of this all is to spark the conversation, to see what other flags folks come up, if there’s anything folks can rally behind.
Note: As of right now we haven’t really made a website around this, but let’s use the twitter hashtag #MiamiFlag with your ideas. Or join Jose-William’s “A New Flag for Miami” Facebook group!