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
- Lack of Housing
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.
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
Chris Crescibene’s Flag Makes a Statement
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 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.
Tom Hoyt’s Controversial San Francisco Flag
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.
Jackie Farkas Emphasizes San Francisco’s Natural Beauty
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’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.