Few state flags are more recognizable than the Lone Star State's, but the City of Austin's municipal flag is much less of a standout. It's even hard to find a picture of the Austin city flag online.
So, when Austin graphic artist Michael Kriegshauser saw a TED Talk on municipal flag design, he made it his priority to create a new flag concept for Texas’ capital city.
Podcaster Roman Mars’ TED Talk on vexillology (the study of flags) was inspired by his own disenchantment with San Francisco's municipal flag. But by way of explanation, Mars' talk also threw shade on Austin’s city flag. Vexillologists refer to flags like Austin's as SOBs, Mars says in the talk: Seals On a Bedsheet.
Here’s a version of that TED talk, which focuses on the five principles of flag design:
As Mars notes in his talk, municipal flags, more so than country flags, have gained notoriety among vexillologists for being particularly visually offensive. Kriegshauser says that Austin’s guilty of using a small, detailed city seal as the basis for its flag design.
"It’s this tiny shield you can barely see on this giant white field," he says. “If you think of a flag as something that needs to be visible over a couple of miles, if we needed to alert someone at sea that we were a safe harbor, our flag wouldn’t do that right now."
Inspired, Kriegshauser began his own redesign, initially just as an artistic exercise. He detailed his thought process behind the new concept on a post at Medium. He says that he wanted his flag to capture the unique spirit of Austin while still giving props to the state of Texas.
“You may not get breakfast tacos and live music from my design, but I think you see something that’s a cousin, something that exists within Texas, something that’s still related to the state we live in and yet still very unique and stands on its own.”
“I’ve heard some things,” he says. “Like, about ignoring other segments of our city, [certain things] not being visible enough, so I’ve gotten some feedback like that that I think I’ll incorporate into the design.”
Kriegshauser at this point says he doesn’t have a plan for submitting his flag idea to the city.
Even if he did, City of Austin officials told KUT that they’re not aware of any official protocol when it comes to the municipal flag, which was last changed in 1919 after a years-long process that at one point involved a 40-person commission. The Economic Development Department spokesperson says that it would likely be something taken up before the city council.
Once he’s retooled the design a bit to incorporate Reddit’s opinions, Kriegshauser says he’ll give the design a wider release, soliciting feedback via Twitter.
And, he says he plans to tweet at Roman Mars — who's started a petition to redesign San Francisco's flag — to let him know that it was his talk that prompted Kriegshauser's own vexillological endeavor.