Tuesday, June 16, 2015


Why not a design contest to create a proper city flag for Honolulu?

by Larry Geller

Yesterday, with tongue partly in cheek and with the UH study on Honolulu’s homeless population in mind, I suggested that it’s about time that Honolulu’s flag was redesigned. Flag experts (we’ll get to them in a moment) hold that a seal, which is what we have now, is a really bad thing to put on a flag. My suggestion, a flag with a predator bird, was not really serious and would also be a bad design.

I suggested that designing a new flag could be the subject of a contest.

Then came this tweet:

Flag tweet

I did follow the tweets suggested, and learned quite a bit. One of them linked to the video below.

Flag_of_Honolulu,_Hawaii.svgAs you watch this video of a TED talk by Roman Mars, and I hope you will, notice that Honolulu’s city flag is on one of his slides of selected flags that suck. The slide is at about 9:47 in the video along the right edge, one of the many he described as S.O.B.s, or “seals on a bed sheet.”

Please watch the video. It’s a pleasure to watch Roman Mars in action as he creates a podcast right there on stage.

Click on the thingy at the lower right for full-screen, it looks really great blown up, and you’ll need the size to see some of the flags.


Honolulu’s flag really is a terrible design. Really bad. The design principals recommended are, according to the North American Vexillological Association:

1. Keep it simple

2. Use meaningful symbolism

3. Use two to three basic colors

4. No lettering or seals of any kind.

5. Be distinctive

For some reason, cities of the United States seem to have a lot of trouble with principle #4.

There are lots of resources at the North American Vexillological Association website, which you’ll be relieved to learn is a very simple NAVA.org.

So I wonder if there is any interest at all in designing a real city flag for Honolulu? One that we can be proud to see flying all over the city.


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