by Eric DeGrechie
COOK COUNTY, IL — The Cook County Board of Commissioners chose a perfect day to announce the winner of its flag contest. On Flag Day, the board selected a design by a Glenbrook South student as the new flag for Cook County.
Andrew Duffy’s “I Will” flag beat out six other finalists and nearly 300 submissions for the honor. Duffy, who was mentored by Cook County Bureau of Administration Graphic Designer Martin Burciaga, designed a flag that shows through color, shape, and symbolism the importance of the County’s waterways, the beauty of its natural lands, the innovation and commerce of its residents, and its core belief in social justice, according to a news release.
“A flag should reflect the people we serve and the places we protect. As we approach Cook County’s bicentennial, we have a new flag to represent this special place and the people that call it home,” President Toni Preckwinkle said. “While there could only be one winner, we’re grateful to all the Cook County youth that put their minds and hearts into their designs. They have all played a special part in making history today.”
The “I Will” flag utilizes blue to symbolize the County’s waterways, green for preserved lands and riverbanks, red for social change, and the blank canvas of white for the innovation to come. The central “Y” shape highlights the regional rivers joining at Wolf Point while harkening back to the original Municipal Device of Chicago. The stars are seven-pointed to represent each County region, the city of Chicago, and the Forest Preserves, which join together to symbolize residents’ unity and a common mission.
There are six stars to represent foundational moments of Cook County including 1) the founding of Cook County in 1831; 2) the founding of Cook County Health Hospitals Stroger and Provident in 1832 and 1891 respectively; 3) the founding of the Cook County Department of Public Health, which remains relevant today through the pandemic vaccination, declaring gun violence as a public health issue, fighting food deserts, and ending health disparities; 4) the founding of the Forest Preserves in 1914, which today remains a critical part of preserving natural lands and offering open space to residents; 5) the founding of the first in the nation the Arthur J. Audy Home in 1899 marking Cook County’s leadership in juvenile and family justice reform; and 6) an ode to townships and local governments that make Cook County and which echoes the 30 stars on the old flag.
“The entire flag design process, from the first rough draft to the final committee meetings, has been an amazing, educational, and fun experience,” Duffy said. “I am incredibly grateful to everyone who helped me create my design. I am especially thankful for my mentor, Martin Burciaga, for masterfully utilizing his graphic design skills to help take my marker drawn image to a professional-looking final flag that we are both proud of.”
A public flag raising ceremony is planned for late summer in Daley Plaza.
The County’s old flag is the seal — itself a literal depiction of Cook County’s 30 Townships and the date of the County’s founding — on a blank white background with the name of the County surrounding it. That flag was raised over the County Building for the very first time on Tuesday, June 13, 1961, according to the news release.
Cook County approved this new flag during a Legislative and Intergovernmental Relations Committee on a day with additional historical significance: Flag Day. As the national day commemorates the approval of the design of the first United States national flag in 1777, Tuesday the County commemorates the approval of the first symbolic County flag.
The flag redesign centered on a high school student competition that provided a catalyst for a hands-on learning experience for students about the history of Cook County and flag design generally, according to the news releae. The Flag Advisory Panel engaged with teachers and administrators at each of the 550 high schools and entities serving high school-aged children throughout Cook County. In total, 297 submissions were received from students from 40 different high schools.
On Thursday, the Board of Commissioners is expected to concur with the recommendation of the Legislation and Intergovernmental Relations Committee codifying this change.
To learn more about the flag redesign process, competition, participants, and designs, please visit: www.anewflagforcookcounty.com.