START A COURSE

The HTML and CSS Blog:

Fun with Flags: Redesigning San Francisco’s City Flag

I was inspired to give an assignment to my design class to redesign San Francisco’s flag after reading Roman Mars’ Wired magazine article about our current “sucktastic” city flag.

These San Francisco Flag sketches were produced during a weekend design class, at the Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC), as a study of design principles, in January 2016.

The class was given about an hour to work on the assignment of designing a new San Francisco city flag. We had been learning about design theory and sketching earlier in the day using design principles such as symmetry, equilibrium, and proximity. We brainstormed together to create a list of things we associate with San Francisco’s past and present. We agree with Roman Mars that the Phoenix symbol is irrelevant to San Francisco and confusing since there is another city named Phoenix. Here is our list of our iconic San Francisco associations:

  • The Bay and Ocean
  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • Coit Tower
  • Transamerica Pyramid
  • The City Skyline
  • Gold Rush
  • Open Minds
  • Diverse
  • Pride
  • Lack of Housing
  • Tech
  • Fog

San Francisco Flag Redesign

Below are designs each design workshop attendee came up with.


Tim Lillis’ Minimalist San Francisco Flag

Tim focused on a simple minimal interpretation of the Latin motto (from the current flag), using geometry to portray the hills, mountains, gold rush, and our great bridges. The vertical orange stripe represents the Golden Gate Bridge, and the horizontal grey stripe is the Bay Bridge. Tim was inspired by classic flag motifs, such as stripes and cross shapes.

Tim Lillis San Francisco Flag Design

Tim Lillis San Francisco Flag Design © 2016

Tim Lillis San Francisco Flag Design

Tim Lillis San Francisco Flag Design © 2016.

Tim Lillis San Francisco Flag Design

Tim Lillis San Francisco Flag Design © 2016


Sheba Najmi’s SF Flag Celebrates That Iconic Bridge

Sheba focused on the iconic Golden Gate bridge combined with pride. Here are a few variations of her proposed San Francisco flag designs.

Sheba Najmi on LinkedIn
Twitter @snajmi

Sheba Najmi San Francisco Flag Design

Sheba Najmi San Francisco Flag Design © 2016.
Bridge Illustration courtesy of Pechristener under a creative commons license.

Sheba Najmi San Francisco Flag Design

Sheba Najmi San Francisco Flag Design © 2016.
Bridge Illustration courtesy of Pechristener under a creative commons license.


Chris Crescibene’s Flag Makes a Statement

Chris Crescibene

Chris Crescibene


Chris’ flag design makes a statement about the lack of affordable housing in San Francisco. This flag concept is a tongue-in-cheek design solution meant to spark conversations about the future of San Francisco.

Chris Crescibene on LinkedIn

Chris Crescibene San Francisco Flag

Chris Crescibene San Francisco Flag © 2016

Chris also worked on a sketch combining themes of pride, the Golden Gate bridge, and technology. His is a playful take on our distracted, tech-enabled population.

Chris Crescibene San Francisco Flag

Chris Crescibene San Francisco Flag Design © 2016


Tom Hoyt’s Controversial San Francisco Flag

Tom Hoyt

Tom Hoyt


Tom’s design created the most conversation in our weekend design class. First, we critiqued his design for being too complex to read well from a distance. Roman Mars says your flag appears to be about 1 1/2 inches wide when viewed from a distance. Therefore, a well-designed flag should look good and read well at 1 1/2 inches wide. Obviously Tom’s design does not pass that test.

However, we all found Tom’s flag charming and marvelous, and we talked a great deal about it. We love Tom’s “Pride Head” and he told us he started with the concept of being open-minded. He manages to incorporate an amazing number of San Francisco icons and concepts into one drawing. We brainstormed that this could become a series of images where the stuff coming out of the “Open Pride Head” could change depending on the event or time of year. Changing the content would also reflect the concept of diversity. We agreed that the “Open Pride Head” image could be refined as a simple icon for use at small sizes. We were all drawn to Tom’s sketch and couldn’t stop talking about it. His intense approach is a nice contrast to Tim’s minimal solutions.

Tom Hoyt on LinkedIn

Tom Hoyt San Francisco Flag Design

Tom Hoyt San Francisco Flag Design &copy 2016


Jackie Farkas Emphasizes San Francisco’s Natural Beauty

Jackie Farkas

Jackie Farkas


Jackie’s inspiration was the natural beauty of the Pacific Ocean and Bay surrounding San Francisco. She was interested in changing the scale of the iconic Golden Gate bridge by showing it from an unusual viewpoint. The bridge becomes tiny and delicate compared to the grandeur of the enormous Pacific ocean, changing the balance between man’s influence and nature. I love her beautiful organic flowing lines, and broad perspective.

Jackie Farkas Design
Jackie Farkas on Linkedin

Jackie Farkas San Francisco Flag Design

Jackie Farkas San Francisco Flag Design © 2016


Jackie’s second design is a little more of a playful interpretation of the bridge using simple geometric shapes. This flag design is an homage to the cut-paper works of artist Henri Matisse, from the mid-century. Jackie was thinking about playing with an icon, the Golden Gate Bridge, and seeing how simple it could be and yet still be recognizable. The mood is cheerful, playful, and little quirky.

Jackie Farkas San Francisco Flag Design

Jackie Farkas San Francisco Flag Design © 2016


How would you redesign the San Francisco flag?

Following the weekend design workshop I put out a call to action to some of my design colleagues, “How would you redesign the San Francisco flag?”. Here are some of the proposed designs I received.


Winnie Storey’s Diversity San Francisco Flag

Winnie’s concept is to embrace San Francisco’s diversity. By combining the gay pride flag with the bisexual flag’s colors to make the city’s official flower, the dahlia. In the center of the dahlia is the leather pride flag. All these diverse LGBT cultures make San Francisco unique. The gold box represents San Francisco’s history of the Gold Rush. The Golden Gate Bridge symbol is the bridge for the diverse cultures San Francisco has to offer.

Winnie Storey, designer at Binary Feline
Winnie Storey Fine Art

Winnie Storey San Francisco Flag Design

Winnie Storey San Francisco Flag Design © 2016


Diane Presler Left Her Heart in San Francisco

I worked with themes of the Gold Rush, the Pacific Ocean & Bay, and the hills of San Francisco. Tony Bennett’s iconic song “I left my Heart in San Francisco” inspired me to include a heart left in San Francisco. I tried to stick to simple clean design, using geometric interpretations of the Ocean and Hills.

Diane Presler San Franciso Flag

Diane Presler San Francisco Flag © 2016

Diane Presler San Francisco Flag

Diane Presler San Francisco Flag © 2016

Diane Presler San Francisco Flag

Diane Presler San Francisco Flag © 2016

Diane Presler San Francisco Flag

Diane Presler San Francisco Flag © 2016

Update on Diane Presler’s Black Heart

After being teased a bit about my black heart, I have done a few more sketches. And then, Arya Zarrinkelk said to me, “Why not just a rainbow heart?”. Well, that’s a pretty good idea, Arya.

Diane Presler San Franciso Flag Design

Diane Presler San Franciso Flag Design © 2016

Arya Zarrinkelk San Franciso Flag Design &copy 2016

Arya Zarrinkelk San Franciso Flag Design © 2016


These are the flags we came up with. Reading Roman Mars’ Wired magazine article, or checking out his TED topic on flags, Mars teaches us good design in showing us all the reasons many current city flags have poor design. It’s a good well-rounded intro to some basic design principles. You can also see more proposed designs here. How would you redesign the San Francisco flag?

You can also help convince San Francisco that the flag does indeed need to be redesigned, by adding your name to the San Francisco Flag Redesign Movement.

The current San Francisco City Flag

The current San Francisco City Flag

The Easiest Way to Learn HTML and CSS
Hi! I'm Diane. I'm an experienced web design teacher in San Francisco. I produce music videos to help new coders learn HTML. I'm dedicated to helping you learn to code, with tons of songs, videos, tutorials and activities. All our tutorials are free and we're adding new lessons every day. Subscribe to get the latest post in your inbox.

HTML Lessons

©2013 Diane Presler. All rights reserved.