I don’t normally listen to TED talks. Typically, the seem like a lot of hot air. But this one by Roman Mars on the subject of flag design intrigued me, so I took a listen. I’m glad I did because his point, that city flags are horribly designed, is one with which I absolutely agree.
Take a look for yourself, if you like:
Inspired by this, I took a look at the flag of my hometown, Philadelphia:
It’s not the worst you’ll ever see. It has colors in a pattern that most flags don’t replicate, so it’s recognizable. Those colors actually have a purpose, too, being derived from the flag of the first European settlers in the region, the Swedes. So that’s good. But it still has that seal-on-a-bedsheet problem that many state and city flags have. The seal is too small to be recognized from a distance, and has too many components to be easily remembered or drawn by hand.
But what does symbolize our city if not the city seal? Well, what makes Philadelphia unique in American history, even more than the brief colonization by the Swedes, is that it was the largest city founded by Quakers. The religious tolerance of William Penn and his coreligionists drew thousands of settlers from Europe to the city and the surrounding colony of Pennsylvania, making Philadelphia the colonies’ largest city for a time.
The Quakers don’t have any official symbol that I know of, but the American Friends Service Commitee has long been associated with what is informally known as the Quaker Star:
Those colors on a blue and yellow flag would not be easy on the eyes, but the symbol is one that spoke to me as a perfect representation of the city’s Quaker connections. A little tinkering with the color scheme led me to this, with the dark blue of the state flag and the lighter blue of the city flag standing in for the AFSC’s red and black.