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Provided by North American Vexillological Association

Opinion: SGF flag design in Top 10 for 2022

Eyes & Ears

Posted online

The year 2022 marked an official new city flag for Springfield, commenced by a flag raising ceremony almost a year ago on the downtown square.

It wasn’t a cinch to get to that day, as the new flag brought headwinds of uninterest and some objections to change the look over the six-year grassroots effort by advocates. Well, we can rest assured now, knowing our city flag is flying high with a top grade for design.

That’s right, design matters, and the dramatic changes made also positioned the so-called SGF flag on a survey of all new city flags by the North American Vexillological Association. These are the experts in flag design, and they advocate for cities to raise the bar when they raise their flags, often a source of community pride.

Here’s the latest news: The Springfield flag got an A grade.

The association, which claims to be the world’s largest group of flag enthusiasts and scholars, asked its members to rate over 300 known new flags last year. From the 2,852 survey respondents, the SGF flag was rated among the 46 flags to receive A grades. Better yet, it cracked the Top 10 in the nation, tying Kingman, Kansas, for the ninth highest rating. Kudos to the creators with the Springfield Identity Project who brought this design to the public eye in 2016.

This is a big deal, considering only 15% of the 312 flags rated were in the A class, and the average grade was a high D. Tough crowd. Or many cities still have a lot of design work to do on their flags.

If you’re keeping score at home, 11 Missouri cities were on the survey, having raised new flags last year. And Springfield is not the only A grade in the state. West Plains, in south central Missouri, passed with flying colors (two, to be exact; deep blue and yellow are used in the new design) and actually scored a tinge higher, 7.6, than Springfield, 7.48, on a scale of 0-10. West Plains tied for the fifth spot with Salt Lake City, Utah.

Just because a city raised a new flag doesn’t mean they hit the design elements for a good flag.

Three other cities in the Springfield area were on the list: Branson, Nixa and Republic. Let’s start with the good news. Nixa’s new flag came in with a C grade. Not bad, but there is surely room for improvement.

Branson and Republic, however, are among those with some real work to do; both their flags received failing grades. And Republic’s ended up among the 25 lowest-rated new city flags last year.

What makes a good flag design, you’re wondering?

Take a look at the local new flags and you be the judge.

The expert vexillologists, i.e. flag scholars, behind the survey boil it down to these basic principles: simplicity, meaningful symbolism, few colors, no lettering or seals, and distinctiveness.

You can see a theme among the poorly rated flags: lettering. And city seals, or worse: a combination of both. Why? Viewers from the ground can’t make it out as it’s waiving in the skies above.

But when the design works – meaning it represents and embodies a city, its characteristics and culture – then community, and business, pride rises along with it. We’ve witnessed this in Springfield, as many businesses loosely adopted the new SGF flag before it became official at City Hall. It was seen hanging in restaurants and hotels, painted on walls, and sold on stickers, hats and T-shirts in local stores. It became an instant symbol of unity for the city.

Now, the flag has a positive letter grade to go along with it.

Vindication? Maybe.

Pride? No doubt, it’s blowing across the community.

Springfield Business Journal Editorial Vice President Eric Olson can be reached at eolson@sbj.net.

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