by Mitch Dudek
For years, the Cook County flag was considered by flag enthusiasts to be a bit of a dud — known in the flag world by the derogatory acronym SOB: seal on a bedsheet.
That all changed Tuesday with the “big reveal” of a new county flag that was the result of a design contest that was open to students from the county’s 500-plus high schools.
The winning design came from Drew Duffy, a senior at Glenbrook South High School.
A Y shape that symbolizes the Chicago River’s split at Wolf Point anchors the new flag. Its green outline symbolizes riverbanks, nature and the county’s forest preserves.
Six red stars on the flag symbolize the founding of Cook County, founding of Cook County Health, founding of Cook County Department of Public Health, founding of the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, and the importance of townships and local government. And the color of the stars represents the color of social change.
It was important that the flag meet vexillological standards (vexillology is the study of flags), namely that the design be simple, meaningful and easy to remember, with only a few colors and no words.
A total of 297 different flag designs were submitted by students from 40 high schools.
An appointed flag advisory panel narrowed the selection to six flags in March. The panel is made up of historians, Cook County Board commissioners, museum directors and other high-level county officials.
Finalists were paired with volunteer mentors that are professional designers. They helped refine and formalize the students’ designs.
The new flag will replace the current bland flag, which was designed in 1961.
The search for a new flag began in December 2019 as a global pandemic was starting across the globe, and the selection process has been delayed several times because of statewide shutdowns.
“I’ve always found flags really interesting,” Duffy, 17, said during a phone chat Tuesday.
“I was obsessed with a book about world flags my mom got for me when I was little. The world was shut down when I designed this flag, and it became a passion project.”
The effort to redo the flag was spearheaded by Commissioner Scott Britton of Glenview and Cook County historian Matthew DeLeon.
“I could not be more excited,” Britton said Tuesday.
The new flag will first be raised later this summer in a ceremony at Daley Plaza.