If you were to reimagine the American flag, what would it look like? What would you change, and what would stay the same? And most importantly, what message about America in 2021 would you try to reflect?
These were the sort of questions that The New York Times posed to a group of designers for their recent op-ed “Redesigning America’s Flag; Six New Takes on Old Glory,” the next installment in their “Snap Out of it, America!” series. The collection of essays “explores bold ideas to revitalize and renew the American experiment,” and reimagining the design of the American flag falls squarely in that category.
The six unique designs created for the project portray an array of interpretations, from the minds of Andrew Kuo, Natasha Jen, Michelle Ando, with Veronica Höglund (from Pentagram Design), Na Kim, 2×4, Hank Willis Thomas, Jiminie Ha teaming up with With Projects Inc, and Joseph Han, Tom Elia, and J.A. Ginsburg (from Collins). Each design comes accompanied by a short text description for further insight into the graphics and their thought process behind the work.
The flag design from Natasha Jen, Michelle Ando, and Veronica Höglund of Pentagram reconfigures the existing features of the American flag, creating a checkerboard pattern from the stars and stripes. “This flag is intended to suggest interdependency and togetherness. The two elements are interwoven to create a fabric. Interweaving suggests that we depend on one another and that as a whole, America is a fabric, held together by equality,” they write.
Na Kim’s version takes on a more dire interpretation of our nation, stripping away the red and blue from the existing flag, which are meant to represent unity, valor, and justice. What’s left is a grayscale star pattern. “The gray, monochrome flag represents America surrendering to its fall from power and loss of the ideals it once stood for,” Kim explains. “The American dream is being washed away.”
A fuzzy, out-of-focus revision of the flag comes from the design consultancy 2×4, alluding to a country whose identity has become increasingly unclear and blurry. “In this flag, the familiar symbolism falls out of focus, giving way to something ambiguous, vague, and difficult to define,” they write.
Joseph Han, Tom Elia, and J.A. Ginsburg from Collins teamed up to conceive of a design featuring red and white horizontal stripes that converge toward one central purple band that reflects the current division in the US. “Now, red and blue are tribal signals, and the flag seems to represent two factions forced to share a piece of fabric,” they write. But the single purple stripe represents hope and optimism for a more unified future. “By running a single purple bar across the middle, this flag reminds all of us of the constant potential and possibility inherent in America when red and blue come together as one.”
While none of these designs will actually get adopted as the actual American flag anytime soon, it’s a thoughtful exercise to reevaluate how our current flag does and doesn’t represent America as we currently know it.