Chicago Tribune: Cook County unveils new flag designed by high school student and inspired by 1893 World’s Fair goddess statue
by A.D. Quig
After more than a half-century of having a flag that was often deemed forgettable, Cook County is getting a new banner that features a cleaner layout that plays up the county’s history.
County officials on Tuesday unveiled their pick for the county’s new flag, which was announced on national Flag Day and is known as the “I Will Banner.”
Createdby Glenbrook South High School student Drew Duffy, the new flag features a circle of seven-sided red stars on the left and a sideways blue, green and white Y-shaped stripe to the right. The blue symbolizes the county’s rivers and Lake Michigan, green is for the county’s nature and forest preserves, and white — the color of locomotive steam — represents innovation and commerce.
The Y shape pays homage to the merging of the branches of the Chicago River at Wolf Point downtown and mirrors the city’s municipal device, Duffy said.
The flag’s name comes from a statue designed by artist Charles Holloway for the 1893 Columbian Exposition of a goddess figure suited for battle with a breastplate that read “I Will.” The name “embraces the fighting spirit and go-getter attitude of the people of Cook County,” according to the flag’s description.
The six stars are each seven-pointed to represent each county region, plus Chicago and the forest preserves. There are six stars to represent the county’s founding in 1831; the opening of its flagship hospitals; the department of public health; forest preserves; the Arthur J. Audy home for juvenile detainees; and the county’s townships and local governments.
The stars’ red color, Duffy said, is to represent the county’s bold history of “protest and progress,” including Martin Luther King Jr.’s fights for equal housing and workers’ rights in Chicago, Jane Addams’ founding of Hull House, and the Jewish residents of Skokie pushing back against Nazi protests.
The current flag, raised for the first time over the county building on June 13, 1961, has a white background with the words “Cook County” in red above and below a center seal. In the middle is a gold county map surrounded by two blue circles with 39 gold stars. The stars represent the county’s 38 townships with one slightly larger star representing the city of Chicago. That design violates what the North American Vexillological Association considers a compelling flag: easy to remember with meaningful symbolism, only a few colors and no lettering or seals.
Cook County Commissioner Scott Britton, a flag enthusiast and NAVA member who headed up the county’s selection committee, described the current map as a “seal on a bedsheet, an S.O.B. It’s not visually arresting.”
The 1961 flag was drawn up by county bureaucrats, including the county’s public relations director, then-Treasurer Francis Lorenz and the highway department’s cartographer. This time, the county invited high school students to submit designs to be judged by an advisory panel.
The county received 297 submissions after its call for a new flag in late 2019. Those were narrowed down to 23 by the panel. Semifinalists were paired with mentors to refine their submissions, which were then winnowed down to six finalists this past March.
Duffy’s design started out as a pen and ink drawing and was sharpened with the help of mentor Martin Burciaga, a graphic designer in the county’s Bureau of Administration. The 17-year-old Duffy has had a love of flags since he was a child, and said he beefed up the “I Will” flag’s symbolism with help from former urban history teachers at Glenbrook South.
“You don’t need to put words on a piece of art on a flag to show what it means because we have so many amazing symbols already,” he said.
“I Will” got the plurality of votes from the selection committee after some passionate debate, Britton said. Board President Toni Preckwinkle agreed with the final pick.
A County Board committee approved a resolution announcing the selection Tuesday. A flag-raising ceremony at Daley Plaza is scheduled for Aug. 30.