The Roaring Success of Wichita's Flag
In the words of Roman Mars, city and state flags are among the most poorly designed things in existence. As a native Wichitan, I immediately questioned this. But our flag is everywhere? It’s flown and hung around multiple buildings. It appears in restaurants and bars across the city. My laptop has a sticker of a sunflower with Wichita’s flag design incorporated within. Thanks, Vortex Souvenir, I love this sticker. I was worried when I started watching this video. Is Wichita’s flag actually…terrible?
Turns out, no. Very much no. In fact, according to the North American Vexillological Association (in layman’s words, the North American Flag Society), Wichita’s flag ranks 6th out of 150 North American flags. Sixth! No wonder our flag is everywhere.
Now, I was more interested than ever about Wichita’s curiously popular flag. I decided to compare it to the 5 key design principles Roman Mars cites in his video.
Flags should be so simple that a 5 year old could draw it from memory. Is the Wichita flag simple? I would say so. It has some interesting elements that might be a bit difficult to copy, the expanding red and white stripes, the white symbol in the blue circle, but other than that, pretty simple.
2. Use Meaningful Symbolism
Does the Wichita flag have symbolism? It sure does. Here’s a breakdown of what Wichita’s flag means taken from the Flagpoles, Etc. website.
· Blue: Faithfulness, happiness and contentment
· Native-American sun design inside blue orb: Permanent Home
· Red Rays: Honor and virtue
· White Rays: Courage
· Red and White Rays: Paths to freedom
Different sources say that the sun design also means “scattered lodges” but it’s up to you to decide. VisitWichita’s website states the red and white rays symbolize the ability to come and go when one pleases. I like that.
Considering Wichita’s name has Native American origins and the city features lots of Native American symbolism (think Keeper of the Plains), it is no surprise that the flag features some as well. Plus, Wichita is my home. The fact the most prominent symbol on the flag means home makes total sense to me.
Some symbols the flag is missing? Aviation, Arkansas River, the Old West.
3. Uses 2-3 basic colors
Red, white, and blue. Check, check, and check. Plus, it follows the 3 colors of the United States flag. Americans love the red, white, and blue.
4. No lettering or seals
The common downfall of many American flags are their strange love of seals (by seals I mean the circular designs with Latin words, not the aquatic mammals). Seals and words are not easily read on a flag flapping in the breeze, nor are they easily reproduced. The Kansas flag falls into this trap, but the Wichita flag doesn’t.
5. Be distinctive
The thing I love best about Wichita’s flag is just how distinctive it is. I have never seen another flag with wide, expanding rays. I’ve never seen a flag with such a distinctive Native American symbol (upon further research, New Mexico’s flag features a similar—perhaps the same—symbol. It’s a great flag; you should check it out). Considering how popular Wichita’s flag is, it seems that Wichitans agree.
How did the flag get so popular? VisitWichita’s website credits the store Lucinda’s in Old Town for making “flag swag” affordable to residents. For me, the flag has been instrumental in connecting the city and being proud of what we have. So far, Wichita’s flag is the only flag with a social media presence. You can follow them on Instagram @wichitaflag.
Here are some creative interpretations of the flag I took from the account.
Wichita’s craft beer scene has exploded in recent years as has the number of eccentric coffee shops. New and exciting projects like Revolutsia are gaining popularity. Whenever people visit me in Wichita, they are always a bit shocked at how nice it is. Some of my favorites include Music Theater of Wichita’s Summer Musical Series, Botanica, Wichita State basketball, and all the food, seriously, all of it.
Okay Wichitans, do you want to know just how good we have it? Here are some flags of other cities I’ve lived in (spoiler: they don’t really measure up).
Greater Manchester, UK
Yikes. I’m pretty sure Manchester doesn’t even have a castle. This flag is technically unofficial, but because Manchester’s most well-known symbol is the bee, I’m wondering why nobody has made a simple, but recognizable flag design out of that?
Technically, Cheshire is the county that the city of Chester is in. Many UK cities don’t actually have flags. This flag is actually pretty good. Simple and symbolic. In fact, the wheat symbols even look a little Kansan, don’t they?
Bonus: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
I’ve never lived here, but the Ted Talk video makes an example of the Milwaukee flag. It is very, shall we say, busy. The city ran a contest recently and is trying to get it changed to a much simpler design. I think they should do it.
This article was very much inspired by Roman Mars’s Ted Talk about Flag Design. I highly recommend giving it a watch.
If you’d like to learn more about flag design, there is a wonderful pamphlet called “Good Flag, Bad Flag” that details all the principles used in this blog post. You can read it here.
This blogpost is not sponsored by the City of Wichita. I just like it here.