(The Center Square) – A Bellingham man is on a mission to replace the state flag of Washington with a more contemporary and inspiring design. Graphic designer Bradley James Lockhart hopes next year’s centennial of the current state flag may become an occasion to reconsider the design.
Toward that end, Lockhart has created a Kickstarter campaign to fund production of his unofficial state flag redesign. At press time, it was fully funded with 38 days left in the campaign and had more than 200 backers.
The problem with the current flag, according to Lockhart, is that it was designed in haste and does not present an inspiring symbol of the Evergreen State. Most people do not display the flag, he believes, because it is not an appealing design.
“If you lived in Alaska, New Mexico, or Colorado you might want to fly the state flag,” Lockhart told The Center Square Thursday, noting that those designs are simple, clear and attractive.
Washington’s state flag, adopted in 1923, consists of the state seal centered on a field of green. The seal is an image of George Washington set in a circle circumscribed by the words “The Seal of the State of Washington 1899.”
That configuration violates one of the five basic rules of design published by the North American Vexillological Association, an organization for the scientific and scholarly research on flags, according to Lockhart. “A ‘good’ flag is not supposed to have any seals or writing on it,” he said, “because it’s too hard to read when the flag is flying.”
Lockhart’s green, blue, and white design incorporates the colors of the existing state flag. Design elements represent the sky, orchards, and trees of the three regions of Washington. Mountain symbols represent the state's five volcanic peaks, and a compass rose represents Puget Sound.
“I’ve seen about a hundred other designs online,” Lockhart said, adding that he isn’t proposing that his design be adopted by the state. “I just want to raise awareness about the issue,” he said.”
He hopes that having 300 or so of his flag designs flying around the state will get others talking about the question of flag redesign.
In addition to teaching animation and design courses at the Western Washington University, Lockhart frequently teaches art classes to third and fourth graders.
“I always ask them to take a crack at redesigning the flag,” he said. “Some are so cool.” He hopes the state might put out a public call for submissions, then choose a new flag design.
“The Alaska flag was designed by a 14-year-old native boy,” Lockhart noted. “If there was some outlet for getting public submissions, I think we’d get something amazing.”
The campaign for a new flag design is not a slur against George Washington or the state seal, Lockhart is careful to point out.
“I’m not suggesting changing the state seal," he said. "I suggest we leave the seal alone. But in my mind, we should not have put it on the flag to begin with. Let’s fix that.”
He added, “I think we have a lot of untapped potential for displaying our flag by not changing the design.
In 2001 NAVA conducted a survey on state, provincial and territorial flag designs. New Mexico, Texas, and Maryland were the top scoring state flags. Washington ranked 47th among 72 flags judged, with a scoring 4.53 on a 10-point scale.
The centennial of the Washington flag will be March 5, 2023.