Raleigh Report

Raleigh flag may get a facelift

The front of the official Raleigh flag.
The front of the official Raleigh flag. Courtesy of the City of Raleigh

The city flag should be less intricate, one resident said.

It ought to have squirrels, Councilman John Odom said.

No. It should proudly display the latest symbol of Raleigh’s spirit: the “DrunkTown” guy from a recent, widely circulated political ad, another resident suggested.

Those were some of the recommendations offered by Raleigh residents after the City Council said this week it would consider redesigning the city’s flag if it launches a branding effort, which it’s expected to do early next year.

The consideration came at the request of Councilman Bonner Gaylord, who said he concluded Raleigh’s flag was subpar after watching a TED talk on flags.

“What we have is not a flag: It’s the city seal on a piece of fabric,” Gaylord said.

The flag represents Sir Walter Raleigh more than it does the city’s character, he added.

“It doesn’t really tie into the city or represent who we are as a community,” Gaylord said. “Raleigh deserves better.”

Raleigh’s flag is simple and distinct but includes a couple of design faux pas, according to the North American Vexillological Association, a nonprofit that aims to educate the public about flags and good flag design.

On the front: The city seal – which includes a green oak tree encircled by the city’s name and a wreath – sits in the middle of a thick, white vertical stripe that’s framed by red stripes on either side.

The back has the same thick vertical stripes, but in the middle features Sir Walter Raleigh’s crest. A deer stands atop the crest because the city was in a thickly populated forest when founded, according to Damien Graham, Raleigh’s communications director.

Flags shouldn’t include any lettering or seals, according to NAVA. Nor should they feature more than three colors. Raleigh’s has five: red, white, green, gold and gray.

Yet, it was the top-rated flag of all North Carolina cities in a survey NAVA conducted in 2004. Raleigh’s flag ranked 56 among all U.S. cities, beating out Charlotte at 66 and Greensboro at 98.

Washington D.C., Chicago and Denver were the top-rated flags in the country.

Whether city leaders will change the flag remains unclear. The council will have three new members by the time any decision must be made.

Graham recommended that any change come as part of a broader effort to streamline its image.

“We have so many different logos and colors and fonts that it’s not clear to anyone what’s part of the city and what’s not,” he said.

On social media, Gaylord’s idea received widespread support.

The red and white colors work, but the flag is too intricate, Jai Kumar tweeted.

Local tech designer Jon Nemargut offered up a star-adorned, green and blue alternative.

“Mountains to the left, beach to the right. 3 old capitals shown as stars. Simple and not a seal,” Nemargut tweeted.

Others saw an opportunity for humor.

Tyler Dukes, a reporter for TV station WRAL, presented a simple, white flag with the intoxicated youth from the “DrunkTown” ad leaning on a lamppost.

“I humbly submit my design for consideration,” Dukes tweeted.

On Tuesday, council members Wayne Maiorano and Kay Crowder seemed uninterested in the topic.

“Is this really the highest and best use of our time for us to have this conversation right now?” Maiorano said. “I don’t know that I’m anywhere near equipped or qualified to in any way evaluate our flag.”

Council members’ debate over whether they should hear Graham’s presentation on the flag lasted almost as long as the presentation itself, Gaylord pointed out.

“We have a bad flag. If we have something bad that could be better, we should look at it,” Gaylord told Maiorano, garnering praise on Twitter.

Paul A. Specht: 919-829-4870, @AndySpecht

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