Thursday, March 9, 2017

Flag Nerds

Hey, wanna play a game? It might help you win a thousand bucks.

Have you ever seen that episode of the Big Bang Theory where Sheldon and a lady friend host a webisode of "Fun With Flags?" A real fan would know that there's not just one but five episodes, and a total flag nerd would also probably know that a flag nerd is called a vexillologist. I can't even say that word.

I'm not that nerd, but financial planner Aaron Hatch totally is. So is recovering architect Emily Applekamp, for that matter. In fact I wouldn't put it past these two (both members of Catalyst Redding) to actually host their own webisode of "Fun With Flags" in the near future. That's because these two, along with the rest of the Catalyst gang, have come up with a contest to design the new Redding city flag that will feature a cash prize of $1,000.00 (and a handful of smaller cash prizes as well).

The other night I met with a bunch of Catalyst Redding members over pizza and beer to play Good Flag Bad Flag. If you're interested in winning that thousand bucks, you might want to take this opportunity to read further and play a few rounds with us. You can leave your answers in the comment section below. I'll be the judge and figure out a worthy prize for the best answer. It should be fun (unless you were the designer of the current Redding city flag).

Round One: Tell me what's wrong with this flag. (Hint: it can be more than one thing. Extra hint: It IS more than one thing.)

Speaking of judging, I'm not going to be winning that thousand bucks, because I am, full disclosure, one of the judges for the Redding City Flag Contest. One of a bunch of judges (including several other media personalities including Carl Bott and Patrick John), who will be distinguishing the good flags from the bad flags and narrowing submissions down to five finalists. Each of whom will win a cash prize of several hundred dollars. Then y'all - the humanity of Redding - will get to ultimately decide who wins that thousand bucks...that person being the designer of the new flag which will fly from city hall (and let's hope a bunch of other places in town), proudly symbolizing Redding as the place we call home.

OK, Round Two: What city does this awesome flag belong to, and what makes this design great?

Before we get to the next round, I want to share a little history with you, and a pretty funny TedTalk, then I'm gonna lay out some rules, and then I'm gonna challenge you to put the right side of your brain to work by drawing a little picture in a 1 inch by 1 1/2 inch box. Four things. You can handle it. Oh, and if you want the answer to Round Two, watch the video.

Are you game?

First, the history. It wasn't even two months ago when the city council ended up on the receiving end of some furious criticism from constituents over the plan to redesign the city's flag. You can read our own Jon Lewis' recap of how the whole thing went down here, but basically Francie Sullivan had an idea to create a city flag, not realizing that Redding already has a city flag (city staff came up with a design, and when it was shown publicly, people got pissed, saying it was a waste of city staff efforts and money (an estimated $2,500) during a time when the focus needs to be on fighting crime, drugs and homelessness.

Personally, I think $2,500 is a drop in the bucket when it comes the city's current problems, but I get it. City staff and department heads need to listen hard right now to the fed-up citizens of this town and get a little more creative when it comes to dealing with these issues. But enough about that, because I'm also of the mind that those who criticize should be ready to be part of the solution, and I'm not quite ready to run for city council. Maybe not ever.

But Catalyst Redding Young Professionals, a local volunteer-based non-profit, agreed with those angry citizens. The city has more important things to focus on right now. They heard councilman Brent Weaver's suggestion that somebody hold a contest to design a new flag, and Catalyst Redding members have taken the idea to heart. They're willing to put up their own cash not only for the contest, but for manufacturing the flag, which will be presented to the city as a gift.

That's free. At no cost to the city. And no city staff time involved in the effort. It's a beautiful thing.

There's no cost to enter the contest, and its open to every single resident of Shasta County. If you have a four year old artist at home with some crayons and a piece of paper, that child could be the designer of the next Redding city flag. In fact that would be pretty cool. If you think I'm joking, check out this amazing and simple flag that everyone should recognize. Which is the point, of course.

Round Three: What country belongs to this flag and what does that red dot symbolize?

Oh yeah, and now, without further adieu, check out this rad TedTalk about what makes a great city flag and how city flags can not only help establish a better connection between citizens and their city, but how some young entrepreneurs might be able to really capitalize on manufacturing some cool swag once Redding gets a new flag. Its a little lengthy. But its so awesome. And if you want to win $1,000 I strongly suggest that you take a few minutes out of your day to watch flag nerd vexillologist (just try to say that word out loud! Just once!) Roman Mars wax on about the worst city flags ever:

If you've made it this far, you're interested, right? So you're ready for the rules.  You can find them at the Redding City Flag Facebook page, but just in case you don't have Facebook, its open to anyone of any age as long as you live in Shasta County. You can submit as many designs as you want. It should be original, positive in spirit, use six or fewer colors, and should not be mean spirited, or use references to alcohol, drugs or religious symbols. And submit it by the end of March.

I think that pretty much covers it, but if you're really serious about entering a winning design, watch that TedTalk, and consider some of the main points Roman Mars made about design elements that can make or break a flag.

  • Keep it simple
  • Use meaningful symbolism
  • Use a small number of basic, solid colors
  • No lettering or seals
  • Be distinctive or be related
If you're ready to get started creating your own city flag design, try drawing a 1 inch x 1.5 inch box. I know that sounds small, but that's how people see an actual flag from a distance. If your design is too complex for that box, then it might be too complex for a flag.

OK people of Redding, get to the drawing board, let your freak flag fly, and hit the play arrow below to get some musical inspiration with a Fly Your Flag playlist.

One more thing. A special word to those of you who have been reading this column thinking "This is ridiculous. A new flag isn't going to solve any problems." Just remember that this is a fun exercise to get us thinking positively and creatively about our city. And friends, wouldn't you agree that thinking positively and creatively is exactly the first step needed to solve pretty much any problem?

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