We're planting our flag in Newport.

Bad design is everywhere, and even though there’s no accounting for taste, we all can pretty much agree on what’s awful, or worse – bland and boring – and what’s not. Cities have a fantastic opportunity to encourage civic pride by turning their citizens into literal flag wavers, but the sad truth is most municipal banners should be banned: the majority of them are what is known as an SOB (Seal on a Bedsheet). Newport falls into this particularly trite trap:

 

 

We thought that a complete makeover of this incomprehensible mess would be a fascinating design project, and, if successful, would be a great touchstone for the city, and a point of pride for locals and tourists alike. So we gave ourselves a challenge: to create a flag for Newport that would capture the inspired and inspiring spirit of the City by the Sea, ignite the popular imagination, and bring more visibility and awareness than any brochure or advertisement could ever hope to achieve. And to make it fun for everyone involved.

According to the Vexillological Society, there are a few rules for designing an authentic and memorable flag, and we thought we’d lay them out here as guidelines for everyone to understand, and judge by. First, a flag’s design must be simple – a six year old should be able to draw it from memory. Second, it should have meaning and appropriateness. Third, two ­or three colors, max. Fourth, no text or writing. Fifth, it should be original, and/or related.

We thought a modified swallowtail burgee would be exactly right even though most flags are rectangular – since this distinguishing shape is associated with boating in general and yacht clubs in particular – perfect for Newport given its maritime heritage and exciting sailing culture. It’s striking, and reproduces well at any size, and in any medium. We chose navy blue for trust and truth (and the ocean) and white for light and purity – the same color scheme as the Rhode Island state flag. We would like to make these flags, at least a special edition, out of recycled sails.

We love the 5-pointed star as the main symbol because Newport, of course, is the star of the show. We think this star is also appropriate because Newport was one of the 4 original settlements in Rhode Island, which relates back to the 13 stars representing the original colonies displayed prominently on the state flag, and, ultimately, to the Stars & Stripes itself. It’s also a nod to the Navy, a welcome long-time resident and partner in Newport’s growth and reputation, going all the way back to the Revolutionary War.

The smaller, superscript star multiplies the first star’s power exponentially, and we think visualizes perfectly the multitude and awesome top-drawer wonders and events that can be found in Newport. Look what we have here: a world-class regattas and beaches; the most sublime and beautiful mansions ever built; a justly-famous jazz festival; a Concours D’Elegance that rivals Pebble Beach; and the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The exponential star is also a hat tip to the North Star, used by explorers for centuries to navigate, and the mariner at sea’s best friend.

We'd like this to become the (unofficial) flag of Newport – it'll delight everyone, native and tourist alike, with its uniqueness and cool factor, and will be the best brand ambassador our seaside paradise could imagine – long may it wave!

 

 

August 29, 2019 — Johnny Mustard