by CST Editorial Board
The city of Chicago has one of the best-looking municipal flags in the U.S., with everything from tattoos to t-shirts attesting to the greatness of the famed bars and stars design.
The Cook County flag, on the other hand, is a bit of a dog by comparison. Designed in 1961, the flag is essentially the county seal slapped on cloth.
But that’ll likely change soon as county commissioners next month begin the process of picking a new Cook County flag from a field of six finalist designs, each designed by high school students.
“As we approach Cook County’s bicentennial, we look forward to presenting a flag that will represent the county for the next 200 years,” said County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said in a statement this month announcing the finalists.
We can imagine the grumbling out there: Doesn’t the county have bigger fish to fry than getting a new flag? Of course. (We’d wager there’s some multitasking going on.)
But flags are important parts of a society’s identity. They’re saluted, flown above public buildings, sewn into public employee’s uniforms — even draped over coffins during funeral services.
Given all that, a flag ought to be a good one.
As a whole, the six finalists are colorful, bold and contemporary-looking designs, with no soaring eagles, ungainly shields and crests, or words and mottos — all of which are the usual stuff of flag design.
For instance, one finalist, “Our Star,” takes the six-pointed star of the Chicago flag, renders it white and places it against a field of five yellow, blue and dark blue stripes.
Designers Sofia Hogue of Evanston Township High School and Ryan Bradley of Chicago’s Disney II Magnet High School said the yellow stripe represents the prairie, while the bands of blue and dark blue stand for the county’s rivers and Lake Michigan.
The five stripes also refer to the five regions of Cook County. And the star, of course, is Chicago.
Flags still have value
The current Cook County flag was designed by four county employees — and it shows, we could scoff.
But the county had no previous flag. And the workers at least understood the importance of having one. That purpose still exists today.
“The idea of bringing people together and sort of showing what our commonalities are, and giving a sense of place and purpose to a region,” said Chicago History Museum Vice President John Russick. “I think that still has value.”