Redesigning the New Jersey Flag — Another Idea

Last November Brian Donohue called for the submissions of designs for a new New Jersey state flag. I responded by two posts, the first suggesting that the new flag be a banner of the State’s arms and the second proposing the “New Jersey buff ensign” as an auxiliary flag.

On February 8, 2016, the ten finalists in the design competition were revealed and NJ.com readers were invited to vote for their favorite. I just made a post in which I briefly commented on the ten designs and the voting process adopted. This post will discuss a new design that occurred to me after reviewing the other entries.

All of the Nordic or Scandinavian countries (Norway, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark) use a design called the Nordic or Scandinavian cross. Here is an example, the flag of Sweden:

If New Jersey adopted a Nordic cross design (say to commemorate the early colonization of part of the state by Sweden), using the state colors blue and buff, the result, would be this:

or this:

Now, suppose we wanted to jazz it up a bit, say by adding the plows from the coat of arms as a canton, we could get this:

The matching blues for the canton and the cross make it a bit awkward looking, so let’s see what happens with the buff cross:

Or we could use Marmocet’s red shield and have a variant of that top ten design:

Redesigning the New Jersey Flag — Comments on the Ten Finalists

Last November Brian Donohue called for the submissions of designs for a new New Jersey state flag. I responded by two posts, the first suggesting that the new flag be a banner of the State’s arms and the second proposing the “New Jersey buff ensign” as an auxiliary flag.

On February 8, 2016, the ten finalists in the design competition were revealed and NJ.com readers were invited to vote for their favorite. This post will briefly comment on the ten designs and the voting process adopted.

Flames were the major element of two of the designs:

Kenneth Huang, Maplewood: The yellow and blue harken back to the original state flag, while the flame symbolizes knowledge, liberty, and power.
Alan Hall, Ontario, Canada: The borders between the buff and blue are cut to resemble an outline of the state. The torch is a simplified version of the one held by the Statue of Liberty. The three flames signify New Jersey’s place as the third state.

The Huang flag’s flame reminds me of the seal of the City of Summit, while the Hall flag is reminiscent of the flag of Indiana

Two of the flags have ray emanating from a sun:

The rays come from a central point, like a lighthouse on the shore or the Statue of Liberty. It also evokes the invention of the light bulb. Three rays symbolizes N.J.’s status as the third state in the union.
Andrew Zega, Paris: The band of buff represents the golden fields of the Garden State. The blue is the sky and the seven-pointed white sun recalls the crown of the Statue of Liberty

The Erickson flag reminds me of the Japanese Naval ensign:

While the Zega flag has a similarity to that of Antigua and Barbuda:

Two of the flags use a design idea similar to that of Barbados and Canada, a symbol charged on a pale:

Dave Martucci, formerly of Wharton: This flag is based on New Jersey’s current flag, but I condensed the design down to just the three plows on blue from the current arms. A Revolutionary War N.J. flag reportedly just had the three plows and a horse’s head on it.
Joe Conklin, Pitman: The traditional colors of New Jersey on a standard three-stripe banner. Thirteen stars represent our original colonies.

As others have commented, the Conklin flag only has twelve stars. In this regard it is like the flag of Europe

As of the writing of this post, the two leading designs in terms of reader votes are:

Andrew Maris, Fair Haven: The flag is inspired by the Jersey Blues Revolutionary War uniform. The militia wore a blue coat over a red waistcoat, often accompanied by a white sash. Three colors and star represent the third state to join the union and the first to ratify the Bill of Rights.
Dan Shelffo, South Orange: The colors, which include N.J.’s official blue and buff uniform colors chosen by George Washington, symbolize beaches, ocean, sky and the state’s woodlands. The pine cone represents trees that thrive in the pine barrens through sheer resiliency.

The final two, and my personal favorites, make use of New Jersey’s coat of arms (three plows on a shield), although in one case the tincture of the shield is changed.

Andrew Jones, Perth, Australia: The cross reflects the flag of the isle of Jersey, from which New Jersey takes its name. The rest is from the current New Jersey flag.
Reddit user Marmocet: The cross shows N.J.’s heritage as an English colony. Buff and blue are used on N.J.’s current flag. The shade of red was taken from the cuffs and collars of NJ revolutionary war uniforms

(What is supposed to be blue on Marmocet’s flag must be very dark as it appears black to me.)

Comments on the Voting Process

While I will acknowledge that because this is a private undertaking, Brian Donohue has every right to establish whatever procedure he wants for the voting, I do have some comments, in no particular order, with regard to the procedure he did establish:

  1. There were too many finalists. There are a number with similarities that may dilute the vote and give more unique designs an advantage. I would have preferred at least several rounds of voting or some form of transferable vote.
  2. The deadline for casting votes was not disclosed.
  3. There is no assurance that interested readers will only vote once.
  4. Current results are disclosed.

Redesigning the New Jersey Flag — Part 2

In a recent post I responded to Brian Donohue’s call for new designs for the New Jersey flag by suggesting it instead of showing the entire achievement of arms on a buff field the flag consist of a banner of the arms, like Maryland’s.

proposed New Jersey flag

In this post I am going to suggest an additional flag design, an ensign, be adopted that can be the basis of flags for state officers and departments.

This proposal is loosely based upon the use by British institutions and territories of flags based upon the red, white and blue ensigns (flags of those colors with the Union Jack in the upper corner or canton, the White Ensign also is quartered by a red cross of St. George), with arms or other symbols added to the fly, said to “deface” (not meant pejoratively) the flag:

For example, the red ensign is the basis of the flag of Bermuda,

while the blue ensign is used by the Northern Lighthouse Board:

ad that practice been followed prior to the American Revolution, the following can be posited as a potential New Jersey colonial flag:

(Note that the Union Jack is the version used before the Union with Ireland in 1801.)

As an aside, here are some flags used by the Continental Army during the Revolution:

Grand Union (or Cambridge) Flag
Betsy Ross Flag

Using the British Red Ensign as a model, here is what an American Red Ensign might look like (based upon the Betsy Ross flag):

American Red Ensign

And here is that flag “defaced” by New Jersey’s arms:

All of the foregoing is by way of setting up the proposal for New Jersey to have its own ensign, which I call the New Jersey Buff Ensign: 

The New Jersey Buff Ensign can then be the basis for several specialty flags, such as for the governor

(The horse’s head is from the crest of New Jersey’s arms and is displayed on the torse (wreath). Please, no comments that the wrong end of the horse is shown.)
(Note that the horse’s head now faces the fly rather than the hoist and the torse has been omitted.)

Redesigning the New Jersey Flag — Part 1

In a recent article Brian Donohue of NJ Advance Media suggested that New Jersey’s flag should be redesigned. He is certainly correct that our flag, which consists of the whole achievement of arms (shield, helmet, crest supporters and motto; technically the “coat” of arms is only the shield) on a buff field is not well-designed.

I am not here trying to be critical of the arms themselves, just the use of the entire display on the flag. Donohue says that it is an example of a  “seal on a bed sheet,” and if you look at a display of state flags, you will see that is quite a common shortcut to a flag. The design is neither simple nor memorable. It is distinctive only in the buff background. (Most states using this pattern have blue as the background color.)

When designing a flag, one should keep in mind that it is a piece of cloth; there may not be enough wind so that it is all readily visible. It should also be easily recognizable. I get particularly annoyed when words and numbers find their way onto a flag.

While I think redesigning the New Jersey flag as Donohue suggests is a wonderful exercise, one need not go to far or look to use entirely new symbols. Instead, I believe that we should look to the nearby state of Maryland for converting the New Jersey’s coat of arms into a simple and memorable flag.

Maryland derived its arms from those of Cecilius Calvert, Lord Baltimore, who was the original proprietor of the colony. The entire achievement as currently used is even more complex than New Jersey’s arms:

I am not here trying to be critical of the arms themselves, just the use of the entire display on the flag. Donohue says that it is an example of a  “seal on a bed sheet,” and if you look at a display of state flags, you will see that is quite a common shortcut to a flag. The design is neither simple nor memorable. It is distinctive only in the buff background. (Most states using this pattern have blue as the background color.)

When designing a flag, one should keep in mind that it is a piece of cloth; there may not be enough wind so that it is all readily visible. It should also be easily recognizable. I get particularly annoyed when words and numbers find their way onto a flag.

While I think redesigning the New Jersey flag as Donohue suggests is a wonderful exercise, one need not go to far or look to use entirely new symbols. Instead, I believe that we should look to the nearby state of Maryland for converting the New Jersey’s coat of arms into a simple and memorable flag.

Maryland derived its arms from those of Cecilius Calvert, Lord Baltimore, who was the original proprietor of the colony. The entire achievement as currently used is even more complex than New Jersey’s arms:

Imagine that design on a white bedsheet; it would have the same issues as New Jersey’s flag.

Maryland, however, did not follow the example of so many other states. It uses only the design on the shield — the actual coat of arms — and uses a banner of the arms as its flag:

Maryland’s flag is rated as one of the best flag designs. I was in Maryland on vacation this summer and I saw it, or elements of it, all over.

Therefore, my suggestion for a redesigned New Jersey flag is simply to use the a banner of New Jersey’s coat of arms:

In a future post I will propose some additional flags using this design as a starting point.